Local impact unclear if state backs Raise the Age bill

HUDSON–The latest version of a bill to increase the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, has “passed the New York State Assembly and moved to the state Senate,” Probation Director Vince Doto told the Columbia Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee at its meeting Wednesday, March 15.

Governor Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both of whom are Democrats, support the bill, known as Raise the Age. The fate of the bill in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans with the help of a small faction of breakaway Democrats, remained unclear early this week.

County probation offices and Family Court would have to take on accused 16 and 17-year-olds if the bill does win approval. Right now North Carolina and New York are the only states that treat both 16 and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system.

Mr. Doto expressed concern that the extra costs of processing 16 and 17 year old offenders as juveniles, no adults, the Governor Cuomo’s veto of a bill that would have required the state to pay for indigent legal defense in all counties, plus what Mr. Doto said were new requirements for foster care would force the county to raise taxes above the state mandated tax levy cap.

Also at the March 15 meeting, Matt Murrell (R-Stockport), chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, spoke from the audience, thanking the Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff David P. Bartlett, the Highway Division, Highway Superintendent Bernie Kelleher, Controller Robert Caponera and Board Clerk Kelly Baccaro for helping the county manage the heavy snowstorm a day earlier.

County Conflict Defender Dennis McEvoy reported positively on Hudson’s new City Courthouse at the corner of Union and 7th streets, site of the former Finnish Line Fitness building. He walked through it and found it “roomy,” likely to “make a nicer environment for those of us who go to court regularly.” The first City Court operations in the new location were expected later that week, with the City Police moving into another part of the building it the following week.

Sheriff Bartlett told the committee that he has a deputy who spends all his work time at a desk doing paperwork. He requested permission to hire someone to help with desk work, freeing this deputy for police work.

Supervisor John Reilly (R-Gallatin) said he would rather have quality police officers “out on the street than going through papers.”

Several people suggested the Sheriff’s Office should “go paperless,” and Sheriff Bartlett agreed that was one of his goals. But he said that for even computerized police records need checking.

Sheriff Bartlett also reported:

• The occupancy rate at the county jail fluctuates between 75% and 85%

• Counties bid against each other to house out-of-county inmates. (Reports to the Board of Supervisors on out-of-county inmates highlight neither the number of such inmates nor their percentage of the total jail population, but instead reports the amount of money the county receives from the inmates’ home counties.)

The next Columbia County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee Meeting meets next at 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 19 at 401 State Street.

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