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The city’s less restrictive juvenile detention facilities were near capacity last week, prompting an outcry from criminal justice advocates. As of Friday, 205 out of 215 “non-secure” beds were full, as were 330 out of 383 beds in “secure” locked facilities. Those numbers represent a significant increase over last June, when there were 183 young people in non-secure detention and 296 in secure. “Our population is higher at this point due to an increase in police admissions,” said Department of Juvenile Justice spokesperson Scott Trent. He also noted the role of “judicial behavior,” since judges ultimately decide which youths should be detained while awaiting their court dates. Observers say detention rates have risen rapidly since January, when the city announced plans to shut down its “alternative to detention” (ATD) schools for teens facing charges in Family Court [see “Saying Goodbye to Last Chance High,” 2/21/06]. Without this option, advocates believe, judges are more likely to choose incarceration. “Even if we can’t determine that it’s a direct cause, the fact that the centers are nearing capacity shows that there’s a problem,” said Ruben Austria, founder of BronxConnect, a program for court-involved youth. According to mayoral spokesperson Virginia Lam, new measures should be in place this fall. In the meantime, advocates have proposed Community Connections, a pilot project that would enlist local nonprofits to serve arrested kids in each of the five boroughs. Introduced by Councilmember Sara Gonzalez, chair of the Juvenile Justice Committee, the $2.7 million budget item is now under consideration by the City Council. Austria, who helped design the program, hopes it floats to the top of the list. “We need to do something quick for these kids,” he said. [06/12/06]