Gov. Chris Christie has announced plans to close two state prisons for juvenile offenders, and replace them with smaller, more modern facilities in more populated parts of the state.
One of the prisons being closed is the New Jersey Training School in Monroe Township, known as Jamesburg, which was build in the 1870s. The other is the Female Secure Care and Intake Facility, referred to as Hayes.
The two new smaller, state-of-the art juvenile rehabilitation centers are planned for Ewing Township and Winslow Township.
“It’s a very positive step forward,” said Cel Zalkind, the CEO of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.
She said housing juveniles in large facilities that are in remote locations is “truly not the best way to treat juveniles and to focus on rehabilitation, which is the point of the juvenile justice system.”
She said the Jamesburg facility has never been an easy location for families to get to “and the idea of creating smaller facilities closer to families, we think is very positive.” She said it’s “more effective, cost effective, and certainly better alternative for youth.”
Zalkind noted for more than 10 years New Jersey has been changing the way youth are treated in detention, with an emphasis on placing them in smaller facilities, while at the same time allowing more young offenders to stay in their home communities while on probation. She said crime levels have dropped as a result.
Zalkind said this latest announcement is more proof that the new approach to dealing with juvenile offenders is working.
According to the Christie administration, the population at New Jersey’s juvenile detention centers has dropped 68 percent since 2004, when the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative began.