As NYC youths in detention surge, teens sleep on plastic beds in common rooms

Up to 10 young people in juvenile detention centers every night sleep on plastic beds in common areas, as New York City is locking up more children than it has the space to accommodate, officials disclosed Friday.

About 7 in 10 youth detainees are there for reasons related to gun violence, Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Jess Dannhauser said during a budget hearing.

Dannhauser said the agency, which operates two youth facilities in Brooklyn and the Bronx, has state approval for up to 30 temporary beds while it increases capacity, but has not used all of them.

“Typically, it’s about five to 10 young people a night that are in that situation,” Dannhauser told the Committee on Children and Youth of the City Council. “It’s not a situation that we are pleased with.”

An average of 260 young people are detained each day, a 31% increase since last year, the Daily News previously reported.

“There are young people who are facing very serious charges,” Dannhauser said. “Their trial is going to take some time, and so they are staying with us much longer periods.”

Advocates last year sounded the alarm about teens sleeping on the ground in classrooms and hallways, after a state waiver through at least next month permitted ACS to house youth detainees in communal spaces.

Dannhauser characterized media reports of kids on the floor as “not true.” Young people sleep on mattresses in plastic bed frames with pillows, sheets and blankets, according to the agency. Youth are now sleeping in the common areas of their halls, instead of classrooms that had to be vacated during the day, the commissioner said.

In the long-term, ACS plans to build an annex at the Horizon Juvenile Center in the Bronx to add dozens of new beds. But councilmembers and advocates said the priority should be keeping teens out of jail.

“We don’t want kids sleeping in the hallway,” said committee chair Councilwoman Althea Stevens (D-Bronx). “We don’t want them sleeping in classrooms. But I also don’t want the facility built out.”

“How do we just do more work to prevent young people from these being in these facilities?”

While the population in detention grows, the average number of days young people spent detained also surged by 59%. ACS attributed the increase to state reforms that raised the age of detainees in juvenile detention.

“The phenomenal increase in the number of kids getting sent to jail is the single most disturbing statistic of the Adams administration,” said Councilman Lincoln Restler (D-Brooklyn).