Updated: May 24, 2021 08:38 PM
Created: May 24, 2021 06:54 PM
Editor's note: Since this story was written, five 17-year-olds who were involved in the fight were moved to the Monroe County Jail.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A story News10NBC has followed since Saturday is the assault on two sheriff's deputies and a county employee after a fight inside the county's Children Detention Center.
Monday, the county tried to get state approval to remove eight teenagers, 17 and 18 years old facing serious crimes, from the center and to the Monroe County Jail.
As of the weekend, there were 30 children and teenagers there. Ten are charged with murder. Two are charged with attempted murder.
A couple of years ago, they would be at the county jail. Raise the age reform prohibits any person 17-year-old and younger to be sent to jail. So they go to juvenile detention centers instead, and the county says there is a serious violence problem.
Sheriff Todd Baxter described what happened after two of his deputies and a staff member broke up the fight at the detention center Saturday.
Baxter: "They had their backs turned to the rest of the crowd. There were five more people in the room and out of nowhere they stood up, they talked for a brief second and literally attacked, blindsided the two deputies when they were down on the ground, slamming a chair over their head and then just the typical chaos fight occurred. One of the deputies was body-slammed, literally raised above the head of the subject and slammed to the hard surface."
Brean: "Five years ago, if you had an adolescent charged with murder or attempted murder, would they be at the Children's Detention Center or would they be at the jail?"
Baxter: "They would be at the jail."
Brean: "So why are they there?"
Baxter: "Well this is obviously a result of Raise the Age."
Raise the Age was part of criminal justice reform in New York State in 2019. One of the things it does is keep 16 and 17-year-old teenagers out of jail.
Since the start of the year, County Commissioner of Human Services, Thalia Wright, says 22 detention center employees have gone on workers comp.
Brean: "Does your staff feel safe?"
Wright: "I think it depends on the given day and the given staff. I will say just this morning I want to look at some data. We are averaging probably a staff a week who have been either minor or severely injured."
Brean: "Is the detention center designed and equipped to deal with young people young people charged with violent felonies lake murder or attempted murder?"
Wright: "We are not. the actual layout of that campus as a whole was not built for a detention setting... It's just not equipped for the population we are serving right now."
By law, people 17 and younger cannot be sent to jail even if they're charged with murder.
The only exception is if the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) consults with the State Commission on Correction and approves the move.
That's who the county was working with Monday.
In an email at 5:03 p.m. Monday, the OCFS wrote, "The landmark Raise the Age law stopped 16- and 17-year-olds who had been arrested from routinely going to adult correctional facilities and instead housed them in specialized secure detention facilities for older youth. Under rare and narrow exigent circumstances, counties have sought and have received approval for alternate jail placements for youth with serious violent felony charges since October 1, 2019."
At four o'clock outside the detention center in Rush, I watched a van leave the detention center followed by two sheriff's cars. I am trying to confirm with the sheriff's office if the van had the teenagers the county asked to be moved out.
Brean: "If our state lawmakers are watching this tonight what do you want them to do?"
Wright: "I just want them to kind of survey, this is not just unique to Monroe County."
Wright was diplomatic, asking lawmakers to have conversations and look at the facts.
Wright: "To make sure our staff feels safe, to make sure the kids feel safe. And just really sit down and have a real conversation about what we're dealing with on a daily basis.
Brean: "That's a nice way of saying to the lawmakers on the governor the law you passed has created the situation and we need you to look at it seriously."
Wright: "We do."
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