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NiLP FYI Masthead 

Gladys Carrion and New York's Latino Future

By Juan Cartagena

El Diario-La Prensa (December 25, 2013)

translated from Spanish by NiLP


The future of the City of New York is undoubtedly Latino. In 2010, the Community Service Society reported that Latinos are the second largest group of residents 25 years and older, but the first in children under 16 years and between 16 and 25 years of age .


This demographic reality means that everything that has to do with youth policy in this city has consequences for the Latino community. More important is that public policy has to be made by Latino represetatives who know these communities and their needs.


And here we have the Commissioner Gladys Carrión, a champion of Latino youth in New York. The new mayor Bill DeBlasio announced Carrion as his appointment to lead the Administration for Children Services (ACS ) and be part of his Cabinet in City Hall. The new administration in Gladys Carrión has a leader who knows the government bureaucracy. For the past 7 years in Albany, Carrión took over system for caring for children and managed to make a big difference:


She closed a dozen youth prisons in the state and made sure that youth were incarcerated near their homes . "When their young are arrested and imprisoned in these neighborhoods," she told white communities protesting the closure of prisons in upstate New York, "I will keep these institutions open but not at the expense of African American and Latino youth just to keep jobs in their communities," said the Commissioner. That is leadership.


She supported the decentralization of state juvenile facilities in the City of New York, with adequate social services to assist youth and their families when they are incarcerated .


She spoke with confidence and certainty about scientific studies over the past 15 years that suggest that the human brain continues to develop until age 25. That is, the awareness of a teenager is very different from that of an adult. This is something every Hispanic mother knows. But it is not the central focus of the juvenile justice system in New York.


She established programs to help LGBT youth in the juvenile justice system that became models for the entire country .


She became a key voice in the movement to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York to more than 16 years. Youth are subject to criminal laws only in New York and North Carolina as adults if they commit serious crimes. Hence they are incarcerated as adults in prisons where the risk of being attacked and physically and sexually abused are high.


With Carrión, the new mayor has a strong voice . We know that the appointment of Lilliam Barrios-Paoli as Deputy Mayor for Human Services is another milestone for the Hispanic community. But more than two Hispanic appointments from among 80 positions under mayoral control is needed. There is much to work with in the Latino community, a community with a lot of talent. So the new mayor cannot now rest in addressing the future of the city --- a Latino future is in his hands.


Juan Cartagena is the president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.