Young New Yorkers, in partnership with The Kings County District Attorney, Brooklyn Defender Services, Criminal Court of the City of New York, and NYC Department of Probation, announces ceremony for graduates of the DAT-Y program.

Program offers 16 and 17 year-olds charged with non-violent offenses the opportunity to take part in arts-based seminar to teach critical thinking skills. Successful participants will have case dismessed and sealed immeadiately at court graduation ceremony on Friday, December 6, 2013 at Kings County Criminal Court.

Brooklyn, December 6, 2013 –Young New Yorkers, in partnership with Kings County District Attorney (“KCDA”), Brooklyn Defender Services (“BDS”), Criminal Court of the City of New York, and the NYC Department of Probation (“DOP”), today announced a graduation ceremony for 19 participants of the DAT-Y program. This is the third class of graduates in the pilot program sponsored by the Brooklyn Task Force (“BTF”), which is working in coordination with the American Bar Association’s Racial Justice Improvement Project. The program is open to 16 and 17 year-olds arrested for non-violent misdemeanors and gives them an opportunity to participate in an arts-based seminar that teaches critical thinking. Successful completion of the program results in immediate dismissal of the charges and sealing of the court record, leaving the teens with no criminal record.

BTF’s goal in creating this program is to reform the way 16 and 17 year-olds arrested for minor offenses are treated in the criminal justice system. The program focuses on the concept of choice, leading the participants through a series of arts-based exercises designed to show how positive choices can impact future outcomes.

Supervising Judge for Criminal Court Arraignments George A. Grasso presides over the DAT-Y Part and has been instrumental in the program’s development since its inception. “Working with the Brooklyn Task Force, New York City Criminal Court has developed and implemented a very innovative program to get adolescents in the criminal justice system back on the right track,” said Justice Grasso. “Since its inception, DAT-Y has been focused on Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman's goal of improving outcomes for 16 and 17 year-olds charged with specified non-violent offenses. The DAT-Y program requires completion of a decision-making skills seminar designed to enhance critical-thinking skills and improve self-esteem. After fulfilling the program requirements, court records are dismissed and sealed immediately, leaving the individual with no barriers to future work or educational opportunities and, at the same time, clearing court dockets and reducing recidivism rates for teens. This multi-agency effort to turn Criminal Court into a positive experience in a young person's life is very promising.”

The Young New Yorkers’ lessons on choice, accountability, and responsibility, which are expressed through art exercises, provide a legally proportionate and personally transformative experience for adolescents. Rachel Barnard, the Executive Director of Young New Yorkers, who was responsible for the design and running of the arts based seminar, said: “The Young New Yorkers’ court-mandated art programs are reflective of exciting new conversations about innovative and more effective approaches to benefit our young people. Photography, film and collage are all powerful media that allow our participants to take responsibility for their actions and explore what is important for themselves and their community moving forward. Perhaps one of the most groundbreaking aspects of the DAT-Y program is that Judge Grasso will transform the participants’ final court date into a graduation ceremony that acknowledges their efforts and their promising futures.”

“We are proud to be part of this innovative program, which is in keeping with our agency-wide effort to improve public safety by providing services and sanctions that are targeted to each probation client’s unique risks and needs,” said NYC Department of Probation Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi. “The DAT-Y program is a useful and effective intervention for young people who have committed a minor offense and need guidance on decision-making, not a lengthy probation sentence. We look forward to working with the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, Kings County Judiciary, and Brooklyn Defender Services to expand the DAT-Y program.”

“Brooklyn Defender Services is proud to sponsor the Young New Yorkers program and we are pleased that our young clients charged with minor offenses receive an opportunity to improve their lives,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Esq., the Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services.

“The members of the Brooklyn Task Force sought to address simultaneously two challenges with the design and implementation of this pilot: to improve justice and proactively collaborate in advance of proposed changes in law to raise the age of criminal responsibility,” said Anne Swern, First Assistant District Attorney and Vice Chair of the Criminal Justice Council of the ABA.

Initial results from 2012 show a recidivism rate approximately 50% less from that of the control group of similarly-situated teens not included in the program.


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