New York Has Made Zero Progress in Changing the Laws That Put Teens in Adult Prisons

Image by Flickr user Casey Konstantin
In New York state, the idea that adults and teenagers don't belong in the same prisons goes back a long, long way. In 1824, thanks to the efforts of Quaker reformers, our state legislators created one of the earliest versions of juvie, called the "House of Refuge." It was meant for poor children and juvenile delinquents, in order to ensure they didn't wind up in the same place as adult criminals.

Since then, though, our progress has slowed a bit: New York state has one of the lowest ages of "criminal responsibility" in the country: Sixteen-year-olds here are automatically tried as adults even for nonviolent and misdemeanor crimes. Only one other state, North Carolina, does the same. That means each year, thousands of New York teenagers end up in adult jails and prisons, doing adult time. A new report shows that's increasingly uncommon elsewhere in the country; as it stands right now, we're lagging behind Colorado, Arizona, and Texas in changing our juvenile offender laws. Yes, Texas.

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Pols Irked By Those Awkward Teen Pregnancy Ads On Subways

New York City Department of Social Services
Two weeks ago, we here at the Voice reported on the new campaign conducted by the Department for Social Services. Along with a YouTube video series and teen texting program, anti-teenage-pregnancy ads that should make you feel uncomfortable were introduced to straphangers on subways across the five boroughs.

(For a reminder of what they look like, check out this one on the right and the rest of them here).

Seriously, it was only a matter of time before someone (or a few people) got pissed.

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These New Teen Pregnancy Ads on the Subway Are Something Else

New York City Department of Social Services
Only Nick Kroll's pet plastic surgery ad for Comedy Central's Kroll Show has this beat.

Today, ads in the same vein as the one seen on the right will pop up on subways everywhere. Their main theme: Fifty percent of teenagers do not understand the seriousness of pregnancy at such an early age. And, as you can see, they're bound to grab any viewer's immediate attention. We guess that's advertising at its core, right?

The campaign is the latest from the NYC Department of Social Services to address the issue of teen pregnancy. It will be followed with a YouTube video series later this month as well as an informational text message program for young adults. In both, the Health Department will attempt to reiterate that message.

The new ads rides off the recent controversy brewing over the city's CATCH program. This initiative (increasingly) places Plan B and birth control in the hands of public school health workers, naturally infuriating the parents of students subject to the in-school contraceptives.

But that story parallels the news that teen pregnancy has dropped more than 27 percent in New York City over the past decade. Although the numbers split drastically by borough and race, Health Commissioner Tom Farley pointed to two reasons for the overall decline: Teenagers are having less sex and using more protection.

And, now, there might be a third: that these ads will scare the living daylights of kids everywhere.

You can check out the whole collection here.


Protection For Some: NYC Teen Pregnancy Down By 27% Over Last Decade

Two things: less sex, more protection.

According to the Daily News, that's the word coming from the New York City Health Department to explain a serious downward trend. In new data released yesterday, the City's youth has undergone a 27 percent drop in pregnancies over the last ten years.

The results have led Health Commissioner Tom Farley to point to his Department's efforts to provide more access to contraceptives (like condoms, Plan B and birth control) in schools - a move that hasn't exactly gone over well with some parents. However, his reasoning is not that more contraceptives directly caused less pregnancies; it's just the impression they give off to students:

"It shows that when you make condoms and contraception available to teens, they don't increase their likelihood of being sexually active. But they get the message that sex is risky," Mr. Farley said. This might explain why sexual activity in high schools has dropped by a quarter as well.

However, not all the statistics provided are reasons to celebrate.

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Students Can Get Plan B Pills At a Few NYC Public Schools Now

The last thing hardcore right-wing conservatives need is more cannon fodder for their whole "America is burning to the ground" argument. But, whatever; we're not worried about them here -- that's fellow Voice scribe Roy Edroso's job.

According to the Post, the Department of Health confirmed that 13 public schools across the New York City area have stocked up with morning-after pills in an effort to combat teen pregnancy -- according to recent numbers, more than 7,000 underage NYC residents are pregnant before the age of 17. 

Parents were told about the move and they were given the option of opting-out of the program for their offspring. As of now, only 1 to 2 percent of parents have chosen to do so.

The inclusion of Plan B in public schools is part of a new Department of Education program called CATCH (Connecting Adolescents to Contraceptive Health), which seeks to encourage a healthy sexual lifestyle for teenagers in school. Free condoms at school is another provision in this city-wide program but this is the first time the City has ever offered Plan B in its schools. 

And, furthermore, it might be the first time any school system in the country has, too.
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Studies Look At What The Internet Can Do To And For Kids

There was a period in history when we assume being a teenage girl or a girl on the verge of teenagedom must have meant listening to a Joni Mitchell record while writing in a diary. Now, there's Taylor Swift, blogs, Facebook, texting and the like. It's all so confusing. So two recent studies have tackled how the Internet affects young people. Let's take a look.

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Study: Texting's Popularity Didn't Surge This Year Overall

According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, texting -- beloved, good old American texting -- is starting to be slightly less new and exciting. The average number of texts per day sent and received by Americans only increased a tiny bit this year, though it's still more than 40. (Forty! For real.) It's no surprise that teenagers are still texting their hearts out and old people still don't know how. Some relatively astonishing figures:

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Forced Exercise Helps Teens Quit Smoking, Study Says

Taylor Momsen, teen smoker.
There is a new quitting-smoking study coming out in October, and this one focuses on teenagers at the beginning of their illustrious smoking careers. The study shows that a smoking cessation program in combination with exercise is the most successful way to get teenagers to stop smoking entirely, compared with a "brief intervention" (a 15-minute stop-smoking lecture that could only have elicited eye-rolls) and an old-fashioned smoking cessation program. The researchers think they've pinpointed the reason: More »

Mystery Teenager Wanders Out of German Forest, Doesn't Speak German

Interpol is investigating the peculiar story of a 17-year-old boy who walked into Berlin's city hall and said he had been living in a forest outside of the city for five years. He told investigators that he lived in the woods with his father who died two weeks before the boy arrived in Berlin. Despite living in a German forest, the Independent reports the boy speaks fluent English and only knows a few German words.

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Breaking: Teenagers Drink, Smoke Weed, Lie About It

dazed and confused .jpg
A new study has found that only 10 percent of parents believe that their teenagers drink, and only five percent think that their kids smoke weed. For comparison's sake, consider the fact that 52 percent of teenagers say they drink and 28 percent say they smoke weed.

In other words, science has found that teenagers lie to their parents. Revelatory enough in and of itself, but the New York Times ups the ante and asks real live teens about their drinking and drugging behavior in a blog post: "If You Drink or Use Drugs, Do Your Parents Know?"

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