Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday ordered many of the 100 juvenile inmates in state prisons moved to a new facility next year away from older prisoners.
The New York Democrat ordered corrections officials, in collaboration with the state agency responsible for juvenile detention, to transfer all 16- and 17-year-old female inmates and males with medium- and minimum-security classifications.
"We can offer them a better chance at turning their lives around and becoming productive members of society," Cuomo said. "This action will help reduce the recidivism rate, increase public safety and save taxpayer dollars over the long run."
Hudson Correctional Facility south of Albany, now a medium-security prison, is expected to get overhauled and take the first transferred youths by August. By November, it's expected to have a unit added for disciplinary confinements for sanction of 30 days or less.
Local jails with young inmates sentenced to more than 90 days can request sending them to Hudson.
The Office of Children and Family services was ordered to help corrections officials with specialized training, reviewing policies and procedures and consulting on difficult cases.
Cuomo's executive order says research shows youths criminally processed as adults have a 26 percent higher rate of being locked up again compared with those processed as juveniles. They also have higher suicide rates, it said.
Young males with maximum-security classifications will remain in a separate juvenile unit at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility.
Hudson's current work release and industrial training programs are expected to continue, with those adult inmates housed separately outside the secure perimeter, according to the governor's office.
New York and North Carolina are the only states that process all 16- and 17-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system, no matter the offense, though judges can grant them youthful offender status for many first offenses, vacating the conviction and sealing the record from the public.
The push by Cuomo and inmate advocates to stop prosecuting youths as adults foundered in the Legislature this year. He said that made this interim step necessary.