Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: May 20,2002

Seal of the Unified Court System
New Harlem Court to Focus on Juvenile Drug Cases
HARLEM, NY - The Harlem Juvenile Intervention Court, the first community-based juvenile drug court in the country, officially opens today, May 20, with an inauguration ceremony by Chief Judge Judith Kaye and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Court targets youngsters under the age of 16 arrested for non-violent felony and misdemeanor offenses, responding swiftly and linking juveniles with drug prevention and treatment programs, education, family counseling and community-based services.

Serving East and Central Harlem, the Juvenile Intervention Court crafts multifaceted dispositions that address the substance-abusing behavior of juvenile respondents, recognizing the role of home, school and community in their rehabilitation. Youths enter the court program, contingent upon parental consent, after pleading guilty and agreeing to abide by the mandates of the court, which can include drug treatment, community service, tutoring sessions and regular school attendance.

Chief Judge Kaye said, "Early intervention is critical in helping a troubled young person get back on the right track. Like adults who find themselves caught in the downward spiral of addiction, a substance-abusing teen can become swept up into a life of criminality and be unable to break out. Troubles at home and school, combined with the usual insecurities and growing pains of adolescence, further complicate an already precarious situation. The Harlem Juvenile Intervention Court seeks to halt a young person's progression into further criminal activity by acting quickly to address the substance-abusing behavior with rigorous judicial monitoring and supportive services for the youth and other family members if necessary. By recognizing and addressing the whole network of influences and pressures that can contribute to a young person's use of drugs, the Court increases the chances that the solution will be a long-term, lasting one."

"The Harlem Juvenile Intervention Court represents a more strategic, efficient, and effective approach to addressing juvenile delinquency and substance abuse before these problems destroy the lives of our City's youths," Mayor Bloomberg said. "Early intervention saves time, money, and, most importantly, lives, and the City of New York is a proud member of this collaborative effort, which includes community groups, the public and private sectors, and all three levels of government. We are committed to helping our children lead healthy, productive lives, and this new court is another example of how different people and organizations can work together to achieve this goal."
Special features of the Juvenile Intervention Court include:

  •  Early Identification/Assessment:  Eligible cases are identified swiftly and referred to the court for an assessment that includes the nature of the youth's drug/alcohol use, school problems, peer and community influences and family situation.
  • Drug Testing: Youths enrolled in the court are tested regularly for drugs, and the results are provided to the judge.
  • State-of-the-art Drug Treatment:  Marijuana use represents the overwhelming majority of the juvenile drug cases in East Harlem; Phoenix House has partnered with the court to administer a nationally tested marijuana treatment program for adolescents, just two blocks from the courthouse.
  • On-going Judicial Interaction:  Juveniles and their parents appear before the judge regularly to report on progress in meeting court mandates.
  • Access to Services for Youths and Family:  Ready access to essential services are available on site at the court to defendants and their families, including drug treatment, educational assistance, job and college-readiness programs, parent-teen mediation and counseling.
  • Graduated Rewards and Sanctions: The Court uses incentives to inspire compliance and acknowledge achievement, along with a broad range of graduated responses to misconduct and non-compliance.
  • Interdisciplinary Approach:  All of the court players - law guardians, prosecuting agency, judge and treatment providers - work collaboratively to manage cases and respond to the needs of youths, families and the community.
Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman added, "The Harlem Juvenile Intervention Court is the first juvenile drug court of its kind in the nation and is unique in its insightful, no-nonsense approach to the handling of substance abuse by minors. The Court recognizes the importance of family involvement, incorporating the participation of family members in a young person's rehabilitation program and making supportive services, such as drug treatment, job training, counseling and educational resources, available on-site to both juvenile defendants and their family. With its visionary new community-based approach to juvenile crime and its integral link to the many other youth-oriented programs housed there, this court will be a tremendous resource for the young people of Harlem."

The juvenile court is a division of the Harlem Community Justice Center, a multi-jurisdictional community-based court focusing on the most pressing issues of the Harlem community - at-risk youth, housing and drugs. Juvenile Intervention Court participants are often linked to youth development and leadership programs available at the Harlem Community Justice Center, such as youth court, mentoring and parent-teen mediation.

The Harlem Juvenile Intervention Court - developed in conjunction with the Center for Court Innovation, the research and development arm of the state court system - is located in the heart of East Harlem at 170 East 121st Street. Over $1.1 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the State Justice Institute will be provided over a period of three years for the creation of this new court. Additional court partners include the New York City Law Department, Department of Probation, Police Department and Department of Juvenile Justice, as well as the Legal Aid Society and Neighborhood Defender Service.