First teens to arrive at Ray Brook state prison this month

Adirondack Correctional Facility in Ray Brook, seen in April 2016 from Haystack Mountain, looks remarkably unchanged from its origin as a state tuberculosis hospital. The state will convert the medium-security men’s prison to a juvenile detention center to accommodate a new law that raises the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

The Adirondack Correctional Facility in Ray Brook has been renamed the Adirondack Adolescent Offender Facility and will receive its first incarcerated adolescents later this month.

“As announced earlier this year, the conversion of Adirondack into an Adolescent Offender Facility is on schedule and will begin receiving incarcerated individuals this month,” said Patrick Bailey, spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

The medium-security prison was revamped as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Raise the Age law that raised the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18. Until that 2017 legislation, New York was one of two states, the other being North Carolina, that often imprisoned adolescent offenders in the same facilities as adults and automatically tried 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, regardless of the type of crime.

The Adirondack Adolescent Offender Facility is one of two prisons being readied for adolescent offenders. The other will be based out of Groveland Annex, a formerly decommissioned medium-security prison in Livingston County set to begin operations on Oct. 1, 2019, according to the state’s overview and planning guide.

“The current number of incarcerated individuals arriving this month is unavailable at this time.” Bailey said. “However, while the daily population is a fluid number, the overall capacity of the Adirondack Adolescent Offender Facility will not exceed 150.”

The Raise the Age law created a third category for youth charged with crimes — adolescent offender — alongside previously defined categories juvenile offender and juvenile delinquent. An AO is 16 or 17 at the time of a serious offense. A JO is 13 to 15 at the time of a serious offense. A JD is between 15 and 17 at the time of a less serious offense. Studies cited by the state have shown that juveniles are more likely to reoffend when placed in prison alongside adults rather than alongside other juveniles.

“The new measures will be phased in over time, raising the age of juvenile delinquency from age 16- to 17-years-old beginning on October 1, 2018, and subsequently raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18-years-old on October 1, 2019,” states an April press release from the governor’s office.

This law also created a new Youth Part of New York Superior Criminal Courts, presided over by Family Court judges who have received specialized training, that will judge AO cases. Through the Youth Part, probation services geared toward youth offenders will be voluntarily available, striving to settle juvenile offenses without jail time, according to the state guide.

AO facilities, including in Ray Brook, will host therapeutic programs to develop cognitive skills, provide academic transition plans to assist in moving AO students to educational programs, vocational programs or employment, as well as offer substance-abuse treatment, according to the state guide.

“I think we’re certainly going to have some growing pains doing it,” said state Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, who has experience working in corrections. He said youth often have a harder time adjusting to incarceration than adults.

He said the bottom line is to help these individuals reintegrate safely back into society, and if the new law does that, then the additional costs of these facilities and court processes will be worth it. According to the state guide, counties will be reimbursed for Raise the Age-related services if they remain under the tax cap or demonstrate state-recognized fiscal hardship.

“I just really hope that we’re patient with the transformation of these facilities,” Jones said, “with the staff.”

To find out more about the Raise the age, visit https://www.ny.gov/programs/raise-age-0.

COMMENTS