Rochester treatment center takes supportive approach for teens

Jack Watson | Rochester First

October 11, 2019 – Rochester, NY – Zequa Tookes and Devon Greene work closely with local sixteen-and seventeen-year-olds, who they say are in need of help.

“We understand you’ve made a mistake, but we’re not going to penalize you for that,” said Tookes. “We’re going to give you the tools, and we’re gonna provide treatment.”

At the Villa of Hope in Rochester, young people work with social workers every day to readjust, rather than sending them to prison.

“The pride that [the teens] find in themselves, to believe that they can actually do something different, instead of what they were doing before, is evident in everything they say,” said Greene.

The new “Raise the Age” law stops treating sixteen-and seventeen-year-olds as adults if they are accused of a felony.
Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter stressed the importance of keeping things on a case-by-case basis, and that violent and non-violent offenders should still be treated differently.

“We’ve got to look at people coming into the criminal justice system as an individual,” said Baxter. “And if this person has a propensity toward violence, they have access to weapons, they have anger management problems, they have been involved in other assaults, they have made threatening comments toward other people in society. Well, that’s a propensity toward violence. Those people should be secured.”

October 1st of this year marks the beginning of the law’s second phase, which includes seventeen-year-olds. Sixteen-year-olds were included the same date in 2018.

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The Raise the Age NY Coalition includes organizations from across New York, including formerly-incarcerated youth and their families, child advocates, service providers, faith leaders, legal services groups, and unions. Together, we helped pass the Raise the Age law to end the practice of automatically charging all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Today, we stand with allies from across the state who are moving youth justice forward.