Tryon Girls Center among four in state to close

The Tryon Girls Center will close no later than Aug. 31, along with three other New York state deten

The Tryon Girls Center will close no later than Aug. 31, along with three other New York state detention centers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said Wednesday.

The decision was made in line with Cuomo’s call for a reduction of 377 beds at residential centers throughout the state. Tryon’s shrinking population was central to the decision to close it.

The center, which houses female juvenile delinquents and offenders ages 12 to 18, is currently filling only 39 of its 103 beds, said Susan Steele, assistant director of communications at the New York State Office of Child and Family Services, the center’s parent agency.

“These closings are consistent with the state budget proposed by the governor and adopted by the Legislature,” she said. The move is projected to save the state more than $26 million a year.

The governor’s office did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment.

The three other facilities to close are the Allen Residential Center in South Kortright, Harriet Tubman Residential Center in Auburn and Industry Secure Center in Rush. Steele said some facilities may close prior to the August deadline, but she did not say which.

Sgt. Henry Johnson Youth Leadership Academy in South Kortright, Delaware County, Finger Lakes Residential Center in Lansing, Tompkins County, and Industry Limited Secure Center in Rush, Monroe County will undergo bed reductions.

In a statement Wednesday, the Public Employees Federation said Cuomo is ignoring the needs of New York’s troubled youth by closing the facility.

“This plan to close facilities might save tax dollars, but it does nothing to address concerns for public safety or for the services needed for those troubled youths,” said PEF President Ken Brynien.

PEF, New York’s second-largest state employee union, represents 56,000 state employees, including nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, youth counselors and teachers at OCFS facilities. State youth need these special education and mental health services, Brynien said.

Rather than try to change a failed system, he said, the state has systematically emptied its juvenile facilities for the past several years. The state moved the boys out of Tryon last summer and officially closed the boys side in January.

But Steele said that because facilities were operating with, on average, a 60 percent vacancy, they were prime candidates for closure or bed reduction, as part of Cuomo’s mission to streamline state operations and reduce costs.

Cuomo’s decision is another bad policy choice that does not help state-held youth, Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, New York’s largest public employee union, said Wednesday in a statement.

“Instead, the public gets a budget-driven downsizing without any regard to the consequences,” Donohue said. Youth and their families won’t be the only ones affected by the closure, he lamented. New York’s economy will take a hit, he said, which does nothing for Cuomo’s stated job-creation goals.

The juvenile justice system needs reform and public debate, as well as new management and policies, Donohue said. Tryon management implemented “reckless and irresponsible policies” that work against public interest, he said.

Tryon officials declined to comment Wednesday.

The facility, on County Highway 107 in Perth, houses female juvenile offenders — girls under 16 who are convicted of violent felonies in adult criminal court — in a secure area and juvenile delinquents — girls age 12 to 18 convicted of misdemeanors in family court — in a limited-secure area.

Tryon has gained some notoriety in New York’s juvenile justice system. The announced closure comes on the heels of the arrest of a youth there for allegedly beating and stabbing a nurse. Federal Department of Justice investigators have found in the past that employees at the Tryon and Lansing facilities routinely used force, injuring the youths.

A boy at Tryon died after being restrained by aides there in 2006. And an aide died of a stroke in 2008 after being hit in the head during an escape attempt by two youths.

But Steele insisted violence at the facility did not play a role in the decision to shutter operations and maintained that the Cuomo administration chose which facilities to close based on 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data and state fiscal conditions.

Jobs issue

Assemblyman Marc Butler, whose district includes a portion of Fulton County, issued a statement Wednesday expressing his disappointment with the Cuomo administration. From the outset, he said, OCFS was determined to close down the girl’s facility as it had already done to the boys side.

“Though this announcement did not catch us totally by surprise, it is, nonetheless, bitter news for a community that continues to struggle with its economy,” Butler said.

He questioned whether the state was downsizing or simply shifting positions and jobs from one region of the state to another. The detained girls require supervision at whatever location they ultimately reside.

As Tryon discharges begin, Steele said each resident will be examined, and depending on her security level, transferred to either Brookwood Secure Center in Columbia County or Taberg Residential Center in Oneida County. She could not say how much relocation would cost.

Butler is looking to secure a portion of the state’s $50 million in economic development funding to be used for new job opportunities in Fulton County and the Mohawk Valley, he said, to make up for those lost at Tryon.

“I certainly sympathize with the many employees who worked so diligently at Tryon for so many years, often under stressful conditions,” Butler said.

The Office of Child and Family Services issued notices and met with employees of the affected state facilities Wednesday and gave 60 days’ notice on its website of the impending Tryon closure. “Preparatory actions necessary to effectuate such closure” will occur over the next two months, the statement said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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