The Finger Lakes Residential Center saw some high-profile guests Tuesday. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg arrived with the Reverend Al Sharpton to take an inside look at the juvenile detention facility. Our Tamara Lindstrom has their reaction to what they saw.
LANSING, N.Y. -- A pair of unlikely visitors may have been familiar faces to some of the youth at the Finger Lakes Residential Center Tuesday.
"We have an awful lot of these kids come from New York City," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg and Rev. Al Sharpton showed up at the juvenile detention center looking for answers.
"The question is what can we do to stop the 70, 80 percent recidivism rate that you have out of facilities throughout the state and throughout the country," Bloomberg said.
What they found behind the locked gates might be surprising.
"It's a beautiful facility," Bloomberg said. "If these kids don't get on the straight and narrow, it's not because of the facility and it's not because of the staff."
"These staff seemed to be very sensitive and the young people themselves seem to have a good relationship with them," said Sharpton.
For the youth that come from New York City, it's about a four hour drive up to Lansing and that makes it difficult for their families to come and visit.
"It's very important that families be connected," Sharpton said. "The idea is to reform these kids and try to give them a positive life. And the way that we can best have them bond and remain bonded with their families and their local communities will lead toward that."
"It's very difficult for parents and other relatives to come up and visit them," Bloomberg said. "And we think that families working together is the best hope to get kids lives going in the right direction again."
Forty percent of the center's 48 residents come from New York City. But it's a long road to get them closer to home. Multiple state laws would have to change first.
"We have a lot of people to talk to and it's up to the state and we'll be working with the state government," Bloomberg said.
Meanwhile, the mayor said the young people are in good hands.
"These kids are troubled," Bloomberg said, "and clearly somebody's got to get them going on the straight and narrow."
So that they might just get a second chance.
The Office of Children and Family Services oversees the residential center. The agency has closed 16 facilities as part of a shift toward community-based programming.
However, Susan Steele, a spokesperson for OCFS, stated, "While we agree conceptually with New York City's direction, we are awaiting a detailed plan for an orderly transfer of juvenile placement and care."
That plan would have to be evaluated before any changes are made.