After Saturday's fight, News10BC asks: Is Raise the Age detention reform working? |

After Saturday's fight, News10BC asks: Is Raise the Age detention reform working?

Berkeley Brean
Updated: May 25, 2021 06:16 PM
Created: May 25, 2021 04:52 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There are five teenagers at the Monroe County Jail.

They were moved there with permission from the state Office of Children and Family Services after a fight inside the county's Children's Detention Center Saturday.

The fight and subsequent attack on two sheriff's deputies and a staffer prompted News10NBC to ask — Does there need to be tweaks to Raise the Age reform?

The reform is wide-ranging. We are focused on detention reform. 

Raise the Age says 16 and 17-year-olds cannot be sent to jail even if they're charged with a violent felony like murder. 

So that's why I started with this core question.

Brean: "Is the reform working?"

Stephen Weisbeck: "I would say it definitely is working."

Stephen Weisbeck is the director of the Juvenile Justice Program at Legal Aid. 

Weisbeck: "When you focus on one specific incident and, nobody wants sheriff's deputies to injured, staff at the children's center to be injured, or adolescents to be injured. But is the reform working? It definitely is."

Weisbeck points to this data: In 2015, prior to Raise the Age reform 1,700 children in Monroe County between 7 and 17 years old were arrested. In 2019, after reform, the number was 755. 

And he said being in adult jail increased all kinds of problems for teens including suicide. 

But here's what I asked the county's Commissioner of Human Services Thalia Wright Monday. 

Brean: "Is the detention center designed and equipped to deal with young people charged with violent felonies like murder or attempted murder?"

Wright: "We are not."

Wright said, on average, one detention center staffer is getting hurt every week and 22 are on workers comp. 

Monday, she told me this: "I don't disagree philosophically on Raise the Age but what I do know is that since the implementation we have seen a shift in the level of violence of the kids we are bringing in admission."

Brean: "Should there be some adjustment to Raise the Age when it comes to detaining 16 and 17-year-olds?"

Weisbeck: "So if there's going to be any adjustment I think the focus needs to be on the staffing and the training of the facility."

I asked the commissioner about that. 

Brean: "Are (your employees) trained to deal with the residents there like a jail deputy is trained to deal with an inmate at the jail?"

Wright: "They are not. But what I can say is that prior to this incident we have been working diligently to look at the training."

Commissioner Wright says they're talking to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office about training. 

They're trying to hire people who took the civil service test for a jailor. 

As of Saturday, the Children's Detention Center was maxed out with 30 teens. Ten were there charged with murder. Two for attempted murder. 

Under the law, only the Office of Children and Family Services, in consultation with the Commission on Correction, can approve a teenager being moved from a detention center to a jail.

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