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Reforming the Juvenile Detention System

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Buffalo: Reforming the Juvenile Detention System
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Next month, Governor Cuomo will offer up the details of his blueprint to reorganize state government, and there's a lot of interest surrounding his plan to overhaul the juvenile detention system. YNN's Erin Billups has the details on the brewing battle.

NEW YORK STATE -- Just this week, two of the state's juvenile detention facilities have closed its doors due to vacancies and reports of excessive force used on child inmates.

This comes after Governor Cuomo made an appeal for reforming and consolidating this system during his State of the State address.

"Don't put other people in juvenile justice facilities to give some people jobs,” said Cuomo on January 5th. “That's not what this state is all about, and that has to end this session."

More than 650 children under the age of 15 are housed in facilities that currently have almost 400 empty beds, but the recidivism rate remains high, at 80%.

How to fix these problems will no doubt be the topic of spirited debate at the Capitol this year; highlighting the divided interests and disparity of concerns that come with each region of the state.

"I think we have to be sensitive about closing facilities that effect Upstate NY, and certainly the economy of Upstate NY, but we shouldn't be wasting taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Tom Libous, (R) Binghamton.

The majority of the system's residents are from New York City, burdening downstate lawmakers with the social implications of how the dysfunctional system affects their communities.

"There are different options that don't necessarily require them to be incarcerated hundreds of miles from their homes,” said Sen. Gustavo Rivera, (D) Bronx. “Some of these offenders are non violent. With treatment there are other options that are not as high cost."

But with violent incidents, like the shooting of an officer by Tyquan Rivera, a 14-year old former offender in Rochester, one lawmaker said the state shouldn't be so quick to shutter facilities when the resources may not be there to offer adequate rehabilitation.

"They were put out into the community before they were ready, and we had tragic results. So those are things we're most concerned about," said Sen. Catherine Young, (R) Olean.

The union representing the 2,000 juvenile system workers said Cuomo is misrepresenting the situation. They say blame should be placed on Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Gladys Carrion.

"She has not provided the resources and training that are necessary to adequately do the jobs,” said Steve Madarasz of CSEA. "We do not believe that it is a situation where you can simply wave the wand and everything's going to be better."

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