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Now, New York Counties Must Jail Kids Separately. Some Are Creating A Non-Profit To Build A Regional Facility

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) - Counties in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes are working together to find new places to house children in the criminal justice system.

Last year, the New York state legislature passed a law that prohibits children from being charged as adults which means they can’t be housed in the same jails as adults. That's a challenge for some upstate counties.

Many counties don’t have a secure facility that can house children who’ve been charged or convicted of a crime. Eleven counties 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.

The current state budget includes $100 million to reimburse counties for expenses related to the new law. Tim O’Hearn is the Schuyler County Administrator. He says the state has assured counties that it will reimburse all expenses associated with implementing the Raise the Age law.

"That remains to be seen," he said. "at this point, we have faith and are moving forward with that premise in mind that while this is a local initiative, it is a mandate by the state and will be reimbursed by the state."

Cortland County doesn’t have a facility for these kids either. 

"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 law, kids have to be in jails close to their families.

Besides paying for a new detention facility, Mulvihill says counties have other new costs.

He says each county department has made budget estimates around costs related to the new law. Just for the Cortland County Social Services department, Mulvihill estimates it will cost an additional $1 million to comply with the law, and he says that will likely increase.

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