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Albany County DA Announces Juvenile Justice Reform

DA Soares Announces Criminal Justice Reform Efforts in Albany County
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
DA Soares Announces Criminal Justice Reform Efforts in Albany County

Albany County District Attorney David Soares is publicizing a new series of criminal justice reforms.

"Clean Slate" is a group of programs Soares hopes will reverse-engineer the flow of young adults away from the traditional criminal justice system, aiming to avoid criminal conviction while addressing the harsh realities ex-offenders often face re-entering society.

Soares identified the three stages of "Clean Slate": Reclamation, Restoration and Redemption. The Democrat describes the mechanics of Reclamation.  "We have asked members of this community to sit in as a panel, and, just like a grand jury, to have cases presented to them, and allow for the community members to make decisions as to whther or not these cases should be prosecuted traditionally or alternatives should be sought for these cases. The criminal justice system, as we are aware today, is a system that incorporates or that is housing one too many youthful offenders between the ages of 16 and 24, and with the Reclamation project it is our hope that we can keep these kids out of the system entirely."

Soares revealed there are nine cases in the Reclamation pilot program, ranging in age from 17 to 21. The pilot has been operational since January 2016.  When state "Raise The Age" legislation goes into effect this October, Soares' programs will serve offenders age 18 through 24.

The Restoration effort focuses on introducing re-entry resources and services to formally incarcerated individuals and their families.  Doors at the Outreach Office at 155 Clinton Avenue are now open for community members to use computers, type and send resumes, and search for employment.

Alice Green of the Center For Law and Justice says she has worked for 31 years on issues involving mass incarceration. "There are a number of non-violent felons who are staying in our prisons and deteriorating for no reason at all. They should be out in the community where the community should be helpful to them. And I think we also have to go another step as we deal with re-entry, and also eventually talk about how do we deal with people with violent felonies, and that's gonna be difficult but i think we have to look at all of the people who are in our system to figure out how we really can make a difference and deal with the whole problem of mass incarceration, which is deteriorating our families and certainly our communities."

  • It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. Frederick Douglass

Soares' Redemption Expungement program aims to clear records of criminal convictions for non-violent or low-level offenders who have shown positive rehabilitation. "We're asking citizens of Albany County to come and volunteer their time to come and assist us with these cases. I don't have a tolerance for people you're giving an opportunity to who don't take advantage of the opportunity. And I want to make this very clear as well: this is no free shot. This is no get-out-of-jail-free card. You will have to earn your opportunities here."

If you want to volunteer for the Diversion Board or assist with other programming needs, learn more by clicking on the “Clean Slate” icon on www.albanycountyda.com or emailing albanyda@albanycountyny.gov

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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