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11 NY counties creating non-profit to build regional prison for teens

Karen DeWitt
Speaker Carl Heastie with supporters of juvenile justice reform in 2017.

Eleven New York counties are working together to find new places to house children in the criminal justice system.

Last year, the state legislature passed a law that prohibits children from being charged as adults, which means they cannot be housed in the same jails as adults. That is a challenge for some upstate counties.

Many counties do not have a secure facility that can house children who have been charged or convicted of a crime. Eleven counties across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes plan to join up to create a non-profit to build a new regional facility. Some counties legislature still have to vote on the agreement.

Cortland County does not have a facility for these kids. 

“We are sending folks as far away as the Buffalo area,” said Eric Mulvihill, clerk of the Cortland County Legislature. “I believe there’s also a facility in the Capital Region that we avail ourselves to for current youth detention facilities.”

Under the new Raise the Age law, kids have to be in jails close to their families.

The current state budget includes $100 million to reimburse counties for expenses related to the new law. Besides paying for a new detention facility, Mulvihill said counties have other new costs.

Just for the Cortland County Social Services Department, Mulvihill estimated it will cost an additional $1 million to comply with the law - and he said that will likely increase.

Right now, the law affects children 16 and under. In October 2019, the full law goes into effect to include 17-year-olds.

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