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Under mounting pressure from advocates and state officials, City Hall has decided to keep its promise to shut down the notorious Spofford Juvenile Center by mid-1998, City Limits has learned.

Last month, CL Weekly reported that the city Department of Juvenile Justice was planning to keep the 289-bed facility in the South Bronx open on a limited basis. That decision came because two new 124-bed juvenile lockups, due to open this spring, didn’t have enough space to accommodate the flood of young people in the system.

But after our story appeared–and advocates took their case to City Hall–DJJ backed down. “There has been a lot of public criticism, especially from child advocates,” says Sarina Roffe, a spokeswoman for DJJ. “City Hall originally made a promise, and this administration is keeping that promise. This [decision] came from the administration.”

But the immediate trigger for the reversal may have come from Albany. The state’s youth division, which had to okay the plan, reportedly rejected the Spofford reprieve because it wasn’t satisfied with the educational, training and recreational program DJJ had designed for the kids who were slated to remain at Spofford.

Roffe says her department was still scrambling to find ways to accommodate the estimated 60 offenders who would have been housed in the old building. The city, she adds, is seeking to expand its nonsecured youth detention facilities and refer more children to Alternative To Detention programs. “It was clear from the beginning DJJ wasn’t going to have the resources to maintain a facility like Spofford,” says Darlene Jorif of the Correctional Association of New York.

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