NY’s Raise the Age Law Creates Obstacles

NY’s Raise the Age Law progressed to its’ next phase on October 1st by raising the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18 years old. This means that the juvenile detention system will be taking on 17 year olds who have potentially committed dangerous crimes.

Previously, 16 and 17 year olds facing felony charges were tried at criminal court and were sent to Rikers. With this new law they will be processed through family court and new youth courts and be sent to Crossroads detention center run by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) or the Horizon juvenile center, run by the Correction Department.

After the first phase of Raise the Age centers saw a rise of assault on staff members and more than 25% rise in contraband, including weapons and illegal substances. David Hansell, ACS chief believes that the rise in contraband is in part due to their increased supervision in hopes to avoid violent situations that could occur due to weapons and illegal drugs.

ACS has plans to implement a new behavior management plan that rewards good behavior with perks such as more phone time. The Administration for Children’s Services will also be assuming management over the Horizon juvenile center, with plans to implement these new behavior tactics.

Another issue, one not expected, was overcrowding at ACS’s Nicholas Scoppetta Children’s Center as teens were sent there for housing needs and not detention as their families refused to take them back in.

Officials have been preparing for a year for this shift but still worry about potentially violent 16 & 17 year olds in less-restrictive environments and what that could mean for the safety of staff and other children in the facilities.