Why reopened Sennett residential facility is named for Harriet Tubman

After a seven-year hiatus, the Harriet Tubman Residential Center in Sennett reopened last week. The state plans to use the facility now that the "Raise the Age" law, which will increase the age of criminal responsibility in New York over the next two years, is in effect.

A question has emerged since The Citizen reported on the building's reopening: Why does a detention center bear the name of the civil rights icon and former slave?

One reader on Facebook called this use of Tubman's name "disgusting." A Twitter user questioned why the abolitionist's name would appear on signage for a facility that is essentially a youth prison.

While the center is opening with a new use, the name is not changing. Before it closed in 2011, it was known as the Harriet Tubman Residential Center. And, according to the state Office of Children and Family Services, the name was in place since the mid-1990s.

Before the facility was named in honor of Tubman, it was known as the Cayuga Residential Center. Monica Mahaffey, a spokesperson for the Office of Children and Family Services, explained that because the center houses girls, the agency wanted to emphasize women role models and women's history.

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