Late last night, the New York Senate, Assembly and Governor agreeed on the 2012-13 budget, which includes an innovative new juvenile justice program.

The “Close to Home” initiative, which would allow New York City to place low and mid-level juvenile delinquents in treatment programs in or near New York City, rather than in facilities hundreds of miles away in upstate New York, was included in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s original budget proposal. The Senate and Assembly, however, first had to approve the measure and pass budgets that included it.

Beginning in September of 2012, youth otherwise placed in non-secure facilities will now be placed in New York City-administered programs and facilities. Youth from limited-secure facilities will be placed in City programs beginning in April of 2013.

These categories of youth in New York are usually tried for misdemeanors or non-violent felonies. When they are sent to facilities far upstate, they are often placed a great distance from their families and communities. This distance from support networks correlates with dismal outcomes—youth recidivism among offenders released from state facilities is over 80 percent after three years. Furthermore, the cost exceeds $250,000 per year, giving taxpayers little return on a high investment.

By contrast, City-administered facilities under this initiative will be geographically closer to a youth’s family, and treatment options will be tailored to a youth’s individual risks and needs. Community-based programming has been proven more effective than traditional state-training schools for low and mid-level juveniles, all at a much lower cost, thereby giving New York City juveniles better outcomes and reducing the burden on taxpayers. (In fact, the cost savings is estimated over $30 million over the next four years). Furthermore, because high-risk juveniles convicted of serious offenses will still be placed in secure facilities, public safety remains the highest priority.