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Brooklyn Youth Initiative (BYI)

Program Overview

Raise the Age (RTA) legislation changed the age that a child can be prosecuted as an adult to 18 years of age in NYS criminal case, now mindful that adolescents are different from adults not only in their capacity to regulate their emotions but are also more susceptible to behavior change. Most often, justice-involved youth require a psychological-forensic evaluation or pre-plea investigation (PPI) upon first appearance (arraignment) to assist in making informed sentencing decisions (e.g., release, remand, bail) and/or during their course of court-involvement, especially to identify alternatives to detention that increase likelihood of a return to court. Kings County Supreme Court – Youth Part (YP) requires increased and continued assistance administering psychological-forensic evaluations necessary to secure age-appropriate referrals to counseling, education, programming, and vocational opportunities to foster perspectives for youth that will fully-support and prepare them for a successful transition into adulthood.

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In turn, EAC Brooklyn Youth Initiative (BYI) was designed to assist court-involved youth and their co-defendants (ages 14-24) at Kings County Supreme Court (YP), under the direction of Presiding Judge, Honorable Craig S. Walker. BYI acknowledges the interlink between traumatic experiences and criminal behavior, understanding that regardless of chronological age, without advocacy, unconditional positive regard, and access to trauma-informed services BYI clinical staff provide, many will remain trauma-exposed youth, likely for the rest of their lives.

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BYI Staffing - Contact Information

BYI Program Director:
Gabrielle Herman, LMHC
Certified Sex Offender Treatment Professional (CSOTP)
Certified in War Trauma (C.W.T.)
American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress
in collaboration with the National Center for Crisis Management
Main: (718) 975-0180 x340
Mobile: (724) 587-2448

BYI Clinical Youth Case Manager:
Karisma Oquendo, LMHC

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Program Description:

BYI is funded by the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene and Bureau of Children, Youth, and Families. BYI provides advocacy, clinical screenings, mental health assessment/evaluation, treatment planning, supportive housing assistance, escort to external facilities and/or appointments, and case management services to our participants and their families. BYI is also responsible for the preparation and completion of psychological-forensic evaluations and pre-plea investigations (PPI) for review by Presiding Judge, Honorable Craig S. Walker, and ADA. Undetected and/or untreated psychological symptoms and behavioral health concerns remain a significant risk factor for lack of education, poor life outcomes, and increased likelihood of committing future crimes. BYI services aim to assist the criminal justice system in identifying the needs of the court-involved youth to promptly connect participants to age-appropriate services, provide ongoing community supervision and tailored support, and secure aftercare to ensure long-term stabilization critical to promoting future success.

How You Can Help:

Continued funding for BYI guarantees the future presence of licensed clinical staff, readily available to administer on-site assessments/evaluations to determine mental status, level of risk to self or others, and criminogenic needs or risk factors to accurately present youth to several service providers/agencies, simultaneously.

RTA/BYI Outcomes:

As of June 2020, the NYS RTA Implementation Task Force reported there were no youth under age 18 detained with adults or sentenced to local jails or state prisons, far fewer youth under the age of 18 entered the justice system, and that opportunities for diversion expanded for youth younger than 18 who have been arrested. Reforming the justice system response for 16- and 17-year-olds evidenced greater potential for public safety outcomes and improvement in life opportunities for young people who maintain capacity for course correction. In their final report, NYS RTA Implementation Task Force noted that though such changes demonstrate our state’s capacity to implement large-scale justice system reform, it is imperative that our commitment to progress is carried forward as much work remains – RTA responded in more age-appropriate ways to the needs/behavior of older adolescents, yet Black and Hispanic youth continued to be disproportionally represented and differentially treated at all points in the system.

BYI remains firmly committed to confronting racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice and to reducing disproportionate impact. BYI works diligently to successfully link and secure referrals for all participants to various agencies for mental health/substance abuse treatment, medical care, supportive housing, education/vocational training, among other extensive services located in the five NYC boroughs.

Special Thanks