WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - New Yorkers who are 17 years old are no longer automatically prosecuted as adults in the criminal justice system. It's the second phase of the state's Raise the Age law, which included 16 year olds last year.
The law was introduced for most 16 year olds last year and it's been so far, so good at the Jefferson County Probation Department.
"It's given us a year to get the process down, of course because with anything new there's a learning curve, I think we're doing pretty good. We'll just have to wait and see what numbers we're looking at for 17 year olds," said Jefferson County Probation Supervisor Kristine Maloney.
The Jefferson County Probation Department is one of the first agencies involved in a 16 or 17 year old's case. Staff assesses the youth and helps decide where they should go next.
Maloney says since the law was introduced, the department handled 21 cases for 16 year olds - 12 misdemeanors and 9 felonies.
It has also already handled one 17 year old misdemeanor case.
Maloney says all the cases were heard in family court instead of an adult criminal court, like they would have been before the law.
"There's only 3 categories where a youth can stay up in the adult part and they are: first the crime must involve significant physical injury; or number two, the crime must involve displaying a weapon, or number three, the crime must involve a sexual nature so all the cases that we've seen thus far did not have any of those criteria so we returned those to the family court," she said.
Under Raise the Age, the youth are no longer placed in adult facilities. Instead there are seven secure and six specialized secure detention faculties for youth in the state.
There are also residential out-of-home placements for youth placed in Social Services custody. One of those programs is at the Children's Home of Jefferson County. Its 4 bed unit has been at full capacity since the end of June. It also has a 4 bed female unit that has yet to be utilized.
"Youth are placed on our campus for a maximum of eight months and then we provide extensive and intensive after care services when they return home following that 8 months through their court order," said Brooke Roes, project/intake manager, Children's Home of Jefferson County.
With a year under the belt, both the children’s home and the probation department are ready for phase two of the law.