New York City’s two juvenile detention facilities, Crossroads Juvenile Center in Brownsville and Horizon Juvenile Center in the South Bronx, are operated by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). These detention centers are allegedly the sites of the regular smuggling of various contraband for detainees by ACS staff members. It is alleged that the smugglers, ranging from junior to senior staff members, illegally bring in items such as phones, drugs, alcohol, cash, and razor blades.
“You name it, they’ll bring it,” an ACS employee at one of the detention centers said. “Some will bring in phones, some will bring in weed, some will bring in blades…just so they can survive. This job is not for everybody.”
According to Gothamist, the smuggling of contraband into the juvenile detention centers became worse with the passing of the “Raise the Age” law. The Raise the Age law banned the imprisonment of offenders younger than 18 years old within jail facilities catering to adults. Historically, 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds were tried and convicted as adults, with them inevitably being held in custody in a facility catering to adults. This change meant that the older teenagers, aged 16 and 17, who were facing charges for serious crimes and awaiting trial would remain in detention in a system designed to cater to teenage offenders up to 15-years-old. The older detainees have been labeled as the main source of trouble by current and former ACS staffers.
The contraband that is smuggled into the detention centers is brought in by ACS staffers at different levels of the detention centers’ hierarchy. It is a system that is similar to that used by correctional officers on Rikers Island, smuggling contraband for inmates. “It’s some of the [guards], some of the kitchen staff, some of the managers because the managers can get authorized to bring in some outside stuff,” said Darek Robinson, formerly a staff member at both detention facilities. The smuggling of contraband into the detention centers is cultivated by a gang culture that has infiltrated the facilities. Staff members are allegedly coerced into smuggling contraband under the threat of violence.
“Everything pretty much went south when that [Raise the Age law] took place because [ACS] doesn’t really know how to handle these kids,” said Robinson. “You have grown men in these facilities and the programs are designed for 15 and under.”
New York City has recently experienced an uptick in crimes committed by teenagers. The detention facilities in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and in the South Bronx currently house approximately 200 detainees between the ages 12 and 21.
According to a report drafted by the mayor’s office, the number of detainees increased by 61% last spring compared to the same period the previous year. 42% of the detainees are repeat offenders. 23% of the detainees are facing murder charges while 37% are charged with attempted murder. In an effort to combat the smuggling of contraband, the ACS announced it would be installing security and detection features at the entrances of the detention centers.