Impact of new law still unknown

Raise the Age law’s full impact in future

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County continues to keep a close eye on the state’s new Raise the Age Law, but one official said a truer impact may be felt later when older offenders are affected this fall.

The law went into effect last Oct. 1, starting with 16-year-olds, and has had a minimal impact on the county, officials said. But Fulton County Probation Director Cynthia Licciardi said Tuesday that the law may have a stronger impact when it impacts 17-year-olds this fall.

“We’ll get a bit busier,” Licciardi said.

The state in recent years passed a new law regarding the way 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds are handled by law enforcement and the courts. The law, dubbed Raise the Age, has impacted many areas of local government, including the Probation Department, public defender, district attorney, and the Department of Social Services.

The state is promising 100 percent reimbursement of new law costs through the state and federal governments, although many counties remain skeptical.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on April 10, 2017 signed legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York state from 16 to 18 years old. Young people aged 16 and 17 will no longer be permitted to be housed in adult facilities or jails.

The Raise the Age legislation requires all but the most serious 16-year-old criminal offenders to be diverted to county Family Court, and handled consistent with juvenile delinquent statutes. On Oct. 1, 2019, 17-year-old offenders will likewise be diverted. Those 16- or 17-year-olds impacted and charged with a non-violent felony or a misdemeanor will be considered an “adolescent offender” and be completely protected from the adult incarceration population.

Licciardi said the impact of the new law since last October has been minimal, although staff has been trained.

“It’s been a bit quiet,” the probation official said.

But Licciardi said she expects the impact of Raise the Age will be felt more later in the year. She said Fulton County put in a fiscal plan related to Raise the Age to the state. She said the group of Fulton County officials that met last year to prepare for the law’s effect continue to confer on the law.

“We have some programming planned,” Licciardi said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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