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North country juvenile justice reform team meets for first time

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New York is looking for ideas to help reform its juvenile justice system, and the north country may play a significant role in that effort.

The North Country Regional Youth Justice Team is made up of child welfare providers, probation officers, social services representatives, local law enforcement, and state police from Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Hamilton, Clinton and Essex counties.

The team had its first meeting Tuesday at High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid, and discussed possibilities for the regionalizing of juvenile justice care, according to Karen Y. Richmond, executive director of the Children’s Home of Jefferson County, which is serving as the lead agency for the region.

Heartened by the state’s willingness to listen to regional concerns, Mrs. Richmond said the initiative will allow representatives to highlight the unique challenges the north country faces, including ready access to providers and transportation difficulties arising in rural areas.

The Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Office of the Governor’s Deputy Secretary for Public Safety are coordinating eight regional teams, including the north country contingent.

DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said the goals of the initiative are to reduce the number of youths who have contact with the juvenile justice system and to increase public safety throughout the state.

The regional setup is a recognition of the fact that different regions face very different sets of circumstances; teams will gather data and share best practices among themselves and with state lawmakers, Mr. Green said.

The sharing of best practices may allow neighboring counties to use ideas that they have not previously thought of or to which they have not yet been exposed, said DCJS spokeswoman Janine Kava.

“What works in one community and is a very successful model could be adapted for a use in a different place,” Ms. Kava said.

The north country team will meet again in a month and a half to continue its discussions, Mrs. Richmond said.

The initial time line for the program has been set at two years, at which point policy decisions may be made, though the teams themselves will really drive the process, according to Thomas Andriola, director of policy and implementation for the state Office of the Deputy Secretary for Public Safety.

Some money may be available for technical or expert assistance, but at this point no substantial state funding is attached to the program, Mr. Green said.

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