Ramapo rape: Convicted boys may be sent to separate facilities

Emotionally distraught parents and family members of the Emotionally distraught parents and family members of the teens sentenced in the Chestnut Ridge rape and sexual abuse case leave court after sentencing at the Rockland County Courthouse. A judge sentenced four teenage boys to a minimum of 18 months in a juvenile sex offender facility for raping a 14-year-old Ramapo girl and sexually assaulting her 12-year-old sister in June. (Nov. 30, 2012) Photo Credit: Xavier Mascarenas

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The four boys convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl and her 12-year-old sister will undergo a three-phase treatment program while attending school and sports camps at upstate juvenile facilities as they begin to serve out the 18-month sentences meted out by a Rockland County judge Friday.

The 13-year-olds, who sobbed into their hands as they were sentenced, likely will be sent to separate facilities far from their homes. And they'll be locked up with boys who also committed felony sex crimes. Their parents, whose anguished wails nearly drowned out the judge's words, say they'll be challenged to see their sons.

Ann Pascale, chief of treatment services at the Office of Children and Family Services, explained details of the treatment program at the OCFS-run Industry Residential Center in Rush, close to Rochester, where at least one of the boys may be placed: "There are all types of offenses [that have been committed by inmates at Industry]. There are felonies, there are sexual offenses . . . rape, sodomy, sexual misconduct."

All four boys were convicted on felony charges of attempted rape, sex abuse, criminal sex act and criminal sexual conduct, while one was also convicted on a first-degree rape charge for the several attacks that occurred from June 11 to 13. The boys have been categorized by the court-ordered psychiatric evaluations as moderate- to high-risk offenders.

After Family Court Judge Sherri Eisenpress sentenced the boys Friday, the boys were remanded to Woodfield Cottage secure youth detention facility in Valhalla in Westchester County. They will remain there under the care of the Office of Children and Family Services for the next two weeks while they undergo evaluations and await placement.

Industry -- classified as a limited-secure facility -- has a 20-bed unit for offenders ages 12-18 and houses 14 children, Pascale said. There are three guards on the daytime shift and two overnight, in addition to regular staff.

"The youth are very closely monitored . . . and even present during showering," Pascale said. "There's two units, one for the younger kids and one for the older kids."

Since the agency prefers that offenders who acted in concert during a crime be placed at different facilities, Pascale said the boys may also end up in other locations contracted through OCFS -- such as the Snell Farms Children's Center in Bath; Elmcrest Children's Center in Syracuse; or the William George Agency in Freeville, just north of Ithaca.

During each of the boys' pre-sentencing hearings, their respective attorneys and parents expressed concern about the distance between the centers and their homes. Each of the facilities is between 210 and 320 miles away -- anywhere from a four- to six-hour drive from the boys' homes.

"I don't drive that far distance," a mother of one of the 13-year-old boys, who works two jobs, testified Friday, urging Eisenpress to allow her son to stay home while on probation.

Family visits are permitted and encouraged at the facilities, said Pascale, who added that video conferencing is available for families who can't make the drive often but wish to stay in touch.

"We try to have the parents transported to the facility whenever possible," Pascale said.

TREATMENT IN THREE PHASES

The boys will each undergo three phases of treatment, and must successfully pass each one in order to be released.

"It's a therapeutic milieu," Pascale said, describing the treatment program.

The first phase will deal with disclosure and taking responsibility of the crime, Pascale said. Next is the treatment phase where the boys' deviant and sexual thoughts will be explored, as well as identifying their triggers, errors in thinking and judgment and dealing with victim empathy.

In the third phase, counselors will help the boys come up with a community safety plan to ensure they can transition back into society while still adhering to any orders of protection put forth by the court.

In the last phase, "the youths [will] have internalized the concepts . . . [and] what's appropriate behavior," Pascale said, to be released.

They will attend school -- with class sizes ranging from 8 to 10 students -- and have access to a recreational room. They can even attend basketball and football camps throughout the year, according to Pascale.

While the boys sobbed and their parents wailed in the courtroom Friday as Eisenpress read her ruling, she reminded the boys that their sentence could be lessened or prolonged.

"Your behavior counts," Eisenpress told the boys.

Pascale said the average stay for a youth to complete the program is nine to 10 months, but she has seen offenders take up to the age of 18 to pass through.

"There's possible early discharge if compliant . . .[but incarceration] could extend until the youth is 18."

Pascale called the program at Industry "successful." The recidivism rate for juvenile sex offenders who complete the program is less than 3 percent.

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