May 22, 2017
As we approach the end of CCC’s program year and reflect on all we have accomplished, one huge victory leaps out: the passage of legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York State.
CCC has been fighting alongside many others in the Raise the Age-NY campaign for the past four years to make this law a reality. The Campaign is well over 100 organizations strong and includes members from every corner of the state.
Together we galvanized youth, families, faith leaders, advocates, family court judges, service providers, and everyday New Yorkers to take action and support raising the age. The passage of this legislation means that most 16 and 17-year-olds will now be tried as juveniles in New York State, giving them the opportunity for rehabilitation and the developmentally-appropriate services they deserve.
The battle to raise the age has been long and sometimes disheartening. The bill failed to pass in both 2015 and 2016, despite support from the governor and several key elected officials. But the Raise the Age-NY campaign remained steadfast in our advocacy over a four-year period. The Campaign continued to raise awareness, write op-eds, educate public, meet with elected officials, and ultimately build a broad and diverse coalition whose calls for justice were answered.
Together with our Raise the Age-NY campaign members, we worked hard to educate legislators, their staff and the general public on the brain science research that clearly demonstrates that adolescents’ brains are not fully developed; that adolescents are both capable of impulsive behavior, as well as receptive to rehabilitative services; and that when juveniles are treated as adults, they are more likely to recidivate and that placing youth in adult facilities increases their likelihood of being physically or sexually abused. To illustrate this troubling issue first hand, we helped amplify the voices of impacted youth and their families.
We are proud that New York’s new law is now one of the strongest approaches to raising the age of criminal responsibility in the country and will benefit tens of thousands of New York youth. But we know that no law is perfect and there is always more work to do. In the months and years ahead, CCC and our Raise the Age-NY campaign partners will weigh in during the planning phase, monitor implementation of the law, and pay close attention to the achievement of critical deadlines as well as youth outcomes.
We will also develop legislative, budget and programmatic strategies to positively impact outcomes for youth who will continue to be charged as adults such as advancing reforms of sentencing guidelines, record sealing, and ensuring youth in facilities get appropriate care.
We are thankful to our partners in the Raise the Age-NY campaign, and to the Governor and key legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate who committed to include Raise the Age legislation in the state’s adopted budget. This victory is not only a critical step forward in our state’s justice system, but also a powerful reminder that although the process of advocacy can be long and almost always includes setbacks, holding steadfast to a collective and unwavering commitment pays off in the end.