GOSHEN – A lack of beds at secure detention facilities throughout the state for adolescent offenders ages 16 and 17, who have committed felony-level offenses, has created an issue with county jails. Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) Undersheriff Ken Jones, a veteran law enforcement official, says that Orange County Family Court Judge Victoria Campbell recently issued an order that would have made the sheriff’s office violate the law.
When state lawmakers enacted the “raise the age” law, it prohibited county jails from housing adolescent offenders 16- and 17-years-old from being housed in county jails, regardless of the crimes with which they are charged.
Recently a 16-year-old Newburgh boy was arrested on weapons charges. Judge Victoria Campbell ordered him remanded to the Orange County Jail, which does not have the appropriate staff or space to handle teens, according to Undersheriff Jones. A temporary twin mattress was placed on the floor of the breakroom at the sheriff’s office to house the teen until the DA, Orange County Attorney, and public defender could get a judge to release the teen to his mother.
Adolescent offenders can only be housed in county jails provided “They must be free of sight and sound of adult prisoners and you must have specially trained staff to monitor adolescent offenders. We have neither of those,” said the undersheriff.
“In the case of Judge Campbell, she was fully cognizant that there were no beds available at the state facilities and ordered us to take him into custody anyway,” Jones said. He said he was in disbelief. “I heard from her lips something I’ve never heard from a judge before when she said, ‘It’s really not relevant to me what the availability of beds was,’ and we had to figure it out.” According to Jones, Judge Campbell knew that the sheriff’s office would be holding an adolescent in conditions that do not meet state or federal law and she put the OCSO in direct violation of the law.
District Attorney David Hoovler noted that when the laws were changed, the state said there would be five secure facilities throughout the state for the adolescents where they would receive services including drug treatment and mental health programs. “They have nothing. They are basically being sent right back to the environment they came from, even after a judge remands them because there are no beds available.
More information on the restrictions placed on law enforcement with the 2017 passage of “Raise the Age” can be found HERE.
Hoovler joined with the County Attorney’s Office, representing the OCSO, and the public defender’s office, representing the teen, in petitioning Orange County Acting Supreme Court Justice Craig Brown to release the teen to his mother, with an electronic monitoring bracelet. Judge Brown agreed.
As a result of the shortage of secure facilities for teens, the sheriff’s office has told local police departments that they will no longer pick up any adolescent offenders remanded by the court unless a bed is pre-cleared as available. The result is that local police agencies will have to hold the teens at their own stations until a bed can be found.