Local officials in Albany, New York have confirmed the recent death of a 19-year-old who was being held in a pretrial juvenile detention facility.
Few details are being released about the rare death of a teenager in custody, which is now under investigation. But the local paper, The Albany Times Union, reported Monday that police officers and emergency medical services responded to a 3 p.m. call last Thursday regarding an unresponsive person. Police Lt. Daniel Belles told the paper that the department doesn’t suspect foul play or violence.
“At this point, there’s nothing alarming or making us think it’s a criminal investigation,” Belles said.
The Capital District Juvenile Secure Detention Facility where the teen died is located just north of Albany in Loudonville. It is overseen by the state’s Office of Children and Family Services and operated by the nonprofit Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth.
According to a 2021 annual report, Berkshire Farm provided services to 165 children and families in “safe and secure” detention facilities last year. The agency provides the youth with educational opportunities, community resources and trauma-informed services.
Berkshire Farm’s spokesperson Julie Brennan said in a statement that her agency is “deeply saddened over this loss,” adding: “Our thoughts are with the youth’s family during this time.”
Asked by The Imprint who was conducting the investigation into the teen’s death, a spokesperson with the Office of Children and Family Services named three agencies: the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, Colonie police and the State Commission of Correction. The commission is responsible for monitoring standards and investigating fatalities in New York’s lockups.
“The New York State Office of Children and Family Services is deeply saddened by the death at the Capital District Juvenile Secure Detention Facility,” the Children and Family Services spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
The facility holds youth ages 13 to 20 who have been accused of crimes, pending outcomes in their cases. Its average daily population has fluctuated between eight and 13 youth over the past two years, well under its capacity of 24, according to state data. The detention facility houses young people from counties across New York.
The state’s Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs launched in 2013 to investigate reports of abuse, neglect and other incidents in state facilities, including any deaths in juvenile justice facilities. A spokesperson for the agency confirmed today that it has an “open and active investigation” into the Capital District death, but no further comment was provided.
“In general and not specific to this incident or facility,” the spokesperson said, “reports of deaths in secure detention facilities in New York are rare.”
Federal data echo that. U.S. Department of Justice data confirms that deaths in juvenile detention placements are rare nationally, with eight occurring between October 2017 and October 2018, according to its most recent nationwide facility census.
More information on the death in Albany could be forthcoming. News Channel 13 reported today that results from an autopsy could take a few weeks.