Press Releases

June 17, 2015


Contact: Tolu Onafowokan, tolu.o@berlinrosen.com, 646-200-5331

New York is one of only two states that still automatically arrests and prosecutes 16 and 17-year-olds as adults; Legislation to treat kids as kids needs to pass this session


(Below is a compilation of supporter statements since the proposal was first made)


Governor Andrew Cuomo


“Raising the age will fundamentally improve both our justice system and public safety – and with the funding to make it happen already set aside, it is imperative that the legislature pass this reform before the end of session. By allowing the status quo to continue as is, we are relegating hundreds of teenagers each year – mostly young men of color – to an abusive prison environment that makes them more likely to commit crimes in the future. That is not only an injustice; it is an injustice that compromises public safety, and we must make a change. It’s time for the legislature to raise the age.”


Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman


“This approach puts first and foremost an emphasis on rehabilitation for adolescents, rather than incarceration. The present punitive approach turns children into hardened criminals and must be changed if we are to ensure a meaningful future for kids who find themselves in the throes of the justice system. Our children deserve nothing less, and there is across the political spectrum a growing consensus that now is the time to rethink juvenile justice in our state to improve the lives of adolescents who deserve a chance to be useful members of our society.”


Marc Levin, Right on Crime and the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation


“Raising the age is important from a conservative perspective because of its benefits for public safety and family cohesion. The juvenile justice system has proven to be more effective at reducing re-offending by these youngsters and only the juvenile system ensures that the parent is notified and has an opportunity to be formally involved in the process of holding that youngster accountable and putting them on a productive, law-abiding path.”


Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore


“Being tough on crime means being smart on crime. Treating children like children is good for the juveniles, good for families, good for communities, good for public safety and just good common sense.”


New York City District Attorney Cy Vance


“New York really does lag behind the nation on this. The message we are sending is that by raising the age at which teens are tried as adults, public safety really will be enhanced.”


The New York City Bar Association


“The New York City Bar Association supports raising the age of criminal responsibility to

18 years old for all crimes because that change will protect the well-being of our youth, reduce recidivism and improve public safety.”



New York Times Editorial Board


“Teenagers prosecuted in adult courts or who do time in adult jails fare worse in life and can go on to commit more violent crimes than those who are handled by the juvenile justice system… New York’s decision, made in 1962, to define juveniles as those under 16 was meant to be temporary. But inertia quickly set in, causing the erroneous decision to stand for 50 years, even as ‘tough-on-crime’ states began to see that teenagers needed special protection. It is well past time for New York to adopt the same sensible policy.”


Times Union Editorial Board


“[D]on’t mistake this change for coddling young people who have committed real crimes. The governor’s proposals are based on the recommendations of his Commission on Youth, Public Safety, & Justice, which sought to come up with reforms that would both promote community safety and lead to a juvenile justice system that would produce better outcomes — that is, more young people with hope of a positive future.”


Journal News Editorial Board


“Moving young people who commit crimes out of the adult criminal justice system and into the juvenile justice system gives them a better chance for a positive future, and it makes our communities safer by reducing the number of reoffenders.”


Long Island Herald Editorial Board


“We, too, believe that implementing Raise the Age would put an end to an antiquated penal practice, while aligning New York’s juvenile-justice system with those of nearly every other state. We support Cuomo’s plan to improve the way that system treats young people. “


Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Editorial Board


“New York is one of two states in the country that has a law in which 16 and 17 year-olds charged with felonies are sent to adult prisons. That practice needs to end.”


Staten Island Advance Editorial Board


“We hope this important reform doesn’t get lost in the shuffle as the Legislature rushes to end its session. Let’s give young offenders a second chance.”


 Newt Gingrich, Former Republican Speaker of the House

“New York’s Raise the Age proposal is smart policy that will keep communities safer and make responsible use of taxpayer dollars. It’s time to embrace this overdue reform.”


Richard Aborn, President, Citizens Crime Commission of New York City


“Raising the age will reduce crime, save taxpayer dollars and help countless young people have another shot at a good, productive life. Let’s start treating youth as youth to protect our communities from preventable harm.”


Russell Simmons, CEO, Rush Communications


“I commend Governor Cuomo for finally addressing a glaring hole in our criminal justice system in New York State. It is imperative that we reform a system that over-punishes our youth and re-prioritize our resources towards prevention and intervention.  It must be noted that we would not have gotten to this point without the commitment of many incredible young leaders who have worked on this issue for many, many years. They deserve our gratitude as well.”


Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director, Amnesty International


“Raising the age (and passing the other reforms proposed by the governor) thus offers these kids a real second chance that recognizes their special capacity for rehabilitation, as opposed to the empty promise of one that they cannot fulfill in adult facilities…This state of affairs simply cannot continue. It’s imperative for New York legislators to stand up for the human rights of our kids. The time has come to ‘Raise the Age!’”


Congressman Charles Rangel


“I applaud Governor Cuomo’s commitment to making New York’s criminal justice system more equitable and just. Raising the age of criminal responsibility is not only an important step towards improving public safety in our City, but also ensures that our teenagers get a second chance. Instead of prosecuting under-age youths like adults, we should focus on providing opportunities that will prevent them from committing these offenses in the first place.”


Congressman Elliot Engel


“New York has the unenviable distinction of being one of only two states to automatically process and incarcerate 16 and 17-year-olds as adults, even for non-violent offenses. I believe it’s time to end this excessive judicial practice. The sensible reforms Governor Cuomo has proposed in his ‘Raise the Age’ campaign will give our younger offenders of non-violent crimes a better chance to turn their lives around, while reducing state costs and recidivism rates.”


John Legend, Singer and Justice Advocate


“Right now legislators in Albany are considering legislation that would end the automatic prosecution of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, and remove youths like Kalief from Rikers and other jails throughout the state. Kalief died because our system is broken, and lawmakers can act now to stop tragedies like this in the future.”


Congresswoman Nita Lowey


“Children should not be treated as adults for non-violent offenses. It’s clear the status quo in New York isn’t working, and we need smart reforms that reduce juvenile recidivism and keep our communities safe. I support Governor Cuomo’s plan to raise the age of criminal responsibility and implement other reforms to the state’s juvenile justice system. I will continue working with the Governor and the New York Congressional Delegation to make New York a safer place for children and families.”


Congressman José E. Serrano:


“This important reform to our juvenile justice system will help reduce the incidence of recidivism among convicted youth by giving our justice system the flexibility to treat 16- and 17-year olds convicted of non-violent offenses as juveniles, rather than adults. This change will help connect these young men and women to the services they need to reduce the likelihood of future criminal acts, enhance our community based services for at-risk youth, and help our state save money in the process. It will also make for a fairer justice system that attempts to treat each person as an individual, and that seeks to provide the resources to help each individual rehabilitate and succeed. With this proposal, Governor Cuomo is helping communities like mine in the Bronx, and I look forward to working with him to ensure this initiative is a success in our community and the rest of New York.”


Congressman Jerrold Nadler


“The ‘Raise the Age’ campaign is designed to reduce crime, recidivism, and costs to the state. When we process minors as adults and incarcerate them with adults in local jails and adult prisons, they are more likely to commit more crime. Most other states address juvenile crime more effectively and at a lower cost by treating 16- and 17-year olds differently than adults. I appreciate Governor Cuomo’s efforts to reform New York’s criminal justice system and improve public safety in our state.”


Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney


“It’s sad but true: teenagers are capable of committing horrific crimes and deserve tough punishment when they do. But unless we’re willing to imprison these young people for the rest of their lives, we better have a strategy to ensure they are rehabilitated when the leave the criminal justice system. The current system, that treats teenagers as adults and forces them into jail cells with criminals twice their age, does the opposite. I commend Governor Cuomo for taking a realistic approach to solving this problem with the ‘Raise the Age’ Campaign.”


Congressman Gregory Meeks


“Placing non-violent minors in prisons alongside repeat offenders is misguided, dangerous, and contributes to higher recidivism rates. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his work to prioritize the rehabilitation of non-violent youth offenders and am proud to be a part of the ‘Raise the Age’ Campaign.”


Congressman Joe Crowley


“Governor Cuomo’s proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility is a sensible policy move that not only affords youth convicted of non-violent offenses every opportunity to become productive citizens, but also makes better use of our resources to keep our neighborhoods safe. It’s time for New York to join other states around the country in making sure these young men and women are kept out of adult prison facilities that often jeopardize their futures and focus on a more effective means of re-entry for these individuals.”


Congresswoman Yvette Clark


“For decades, the State of New York has attempted to impose retribution on young men and young women who have legal issues, without any effort to rehabilitate these individuals. The results have been a tragedy, with the lives of many young people ruined because the government failed to provide them with the resources that would allow allowed them to develop their talents and become full participants in our civil society. In addition, we now know from recent developments in neuroscience that teenagers are still developing mentally. A 16-year-old does not have the culpability of an adult—laws that impose such culpability are wrong. With my colleagues in the New York City delegation to Congress and Governor Cuomo, I urge the State Assembly and the State Senate to fix this mistake. We cannot allow the mass incarceration of another generation of young men and young women.”


Congressman Paul Tonko


We must do more to help at-risk children and young adults and demonstrate to our communities that they haven’t been forgotten. As it stands, we are not doing enough to prevent recurring criminality for these youths. This is why I strongly support Governor Cuomo’s ‘Raise the Age’ campaign. We need to ensure our juvenile justice system is refocused to better help these 16-17 year-olds to lead successful, happy lives and become positive contributors to our society.


Congressman Hakeem Jeffries


“It is shocking that New York remains one of only two states in the nation to incarcerate 16- and17-year old adolescents as adults. This approach is wrong-headed, outdated, wasteful and fundamentally unfair. The Governor’s ‘Raise the Age’ proposal is a tremendous step in the right direction, and passage would be a significant criminal justice reform.”


Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney


 “As one of the only two states in the country that automatically prosecutes young offenders as adults, we must reform the juvenile justice system and make these commonsense changes to the legal process.”


Marian Wright Edelman, President, The Children’s Defense Fund


“Our nation’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline — a toxic cocktail of poverty, illiteracy, racial disparities, violence and massive incarceration — is sentencing millions of children of color to dead end, powerless and hopeless lives and threatens to undermine the past half century of racial and social progress. New York State needs to ‘raise the age,’ dismantle the Cradle to Prison Pipeline, and begin to replace it with a pipeline to college and productive work.”


Donna Lieberman Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union


 “We should be providing our youth the support and services they need to overcome challenges and be successful, not prosecuting and incarcerating them as adults. The time to end this cruel, wasteful and destructive practice is long overdue.”


Steven Banks, former Attorney-in-Chief of the Legal Aid Society and current Commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration


“Every day in the courts in all five boroughs of New York City, frontline Legal Aid staff see first-hand that adolescents are different than adults and should be treated that way by the law. Social science, brain science and the United States Supreme Court have all recognized this obvious truth, and New York should finally come into line with 48 other States that set the age of responsibility for the purpose of criminal prosecution at age 18.”


George Gresham, President of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East


“Prosecuting children under the age of 18 as adults is immoral, ineffective and a waste of taxpayer dollars. When children between the ages of 13 and 17 are sent to adult prisons, they are more likely to face physical and sexual abuse, and to return to prison once they get out. Studies have shown that adolescents can change their behavior and make responsible decisions if they are given the proper guidance and support. We need a smarter and more compassionate approach to juvenile justice in New York State, which focuses on education, counseling, job training and rehabilitation.”


Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference


“To increase public safety, we must work to prevent crime, not excessively punish our young people and set them up for a life of crime.”


Judge Michael Corriero, a former judge and Executive Director and Founder of the New York Center for Juvenile Justice


“Teenagers who come into contact with our justice system urgently need services and support, not criminalization. They need to be seen and treated, not according to an ill-conceived adult criminal standard, but rather, precisely for who they are: New York’s children.”


Dr. Meghan Kurlychek, Professor, Albany School of Criminal Justice


“On January 1st 2010, Connecticut legislation took effect that raised the age of criminal court responsibility from 16 to 17. Through a partnership with the Judicial Branch of Connecticut, I have obtained and analyzed data on the outcomes of all 16-year-olds processed as adults the year before this change as compared to all 16 year olds processed as juveniles after this change. The findings are rather dramatic, particular regarding decreased arrest and recidivism of juveniles. In specific, of all 16 year olds arrested and processed as adults in 2009, 42 % were arrested for a new offenses within two years as compared to only 26% of 16 year olds arrested in 2010 who were processed and treated as juveniles. This suggests a definite advantage for treating kids as kids and not as adults.”


Congresswoman Grace Meng


 “There are many parts of our criminal justice system that are in need of reform. One major component is affording teens who commit nonviolent offenses with the opportunity to rebuild their lives and become productive members of society.”


Congresswoman Kathleen Rice


“Most 16 year old kids don’t think and act like adults, so it doesn’t make sense to prosecute and incarcerate them as adults. It makes them more likely to commit more crimes and end up right back in jail, which undermines public safety, costs taxpayers money, and costs us the opportunity to help kids turn their lives around and make positive contributions to their communities. Raising the age to 18 for nonviolent offenders will help break this cycle of recidivism and make our communities safer. That’s why I advocated for raising the age as the Nassau County District Attorney, and why I continue to urge all state lawmakers to give this proposal the support it deserves.”

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman


“Throughout my career in public service, I have strongly advocated the treatment of 16- and 17-year-olds accused of crimes as juveniles rather than as adult defendants. New York is currently one of only two states whose criminal justice system tries all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. This practice is harmful, expensive and ineffective.

The treatment of juveniles as adults disrupts communities and tears families apart without any demonstrable benefit to our public safety. Multiple studies have shown that prosecuting and punishing juveniles as adults greatly enhances the likelihood that they will reoffend in the future — even when they would otherwise be at very low risk of recidivism.”


Mayor Bill de Blasio & Administration
William Bratton, Police Commissioner; Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice; Zachary Carter, Corporation Counsel; Joseph Ponte, Commissioner of Correction; Ana Bermudez, Commissioner of Probation;

Gladys Carrion, Commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services;

Vincent Schiraldi, Senior Advisor to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice


“We support a sensible and safe approach to adjudicating 16- and 17-year-olds in juvenile courts, housing them in juvenile facilities, and providing them with the age-appropriate services and conditions of confinement to reduce their re-offending and help them get their lives back on track.  Sound scientific data show that young people in this age group are different from adults in the way they make decisions and in the way they make long lasting behavior changes.  This research has repeatedly been cited in U.S. Supreme Court rulings affirming the importance of a separate treatment for juveniles.”

Additional supporters include:


Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, Suffolk County


Sheriff Craig Apple, Albany County


Sheriff Robert Maciol, Oneida County


Sheriff Michael H. Zurlo, Saratoga County


Sheriff Colleen O’Neill, Jefferson County


Sheriff Barry Virts, Wayne County


Sheriff Allen Riley, Madison County


Sheriff Donald B. Smith, Putnam County Sheriff’s Department


Sheriff Ernest Cutting, Chenango County


Undersheriff Peter Convery, Putnam County


George McDonald, Founder and President, The Doe Fund


Harry Belafonte


Reverends Kate Jones-Calone & Mary Speers, Setauket Presbyterian Church


Reverend Thomas Humphrey, Grace Community Church


Reverend Tom Goodhue, Long Island Council of Churches


Reverends Cynthia Liggon & Charles A Coverdale, First Baptist Church of Riverhead


Reverend Karyn O’Beirne, Unitarian Universalist Society of the South Shore


Pastor Sheila Bedford, Westbury United Methodist Church


Pastor Gregor Miles, Westbury AME Zion Church


Reverends Mark Tammen, John W. Kloeper & Kenneth Graham, Presbytery of Long Island


Reverends Dr. Tracie Saunders & Dr. Peter J. Kelley, First Presbyterian Church of Southold


Reverend Janice Moore-Caputo, North Shore Presbyterian Church, Great Neck


Reverend Charles M Cary, Westhampton Presbyterian Church, Westhampton Beach


Reverend Ellen Clark Clemot, First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown


Reverend Dr. James Rea Jr, Bethany Presbyterian Church


Reverend Dr. Leslie Duroseau, United Methodist Church of Southampton


Reverend Dr. Laurel Scott, United Methodist Church of Port Washington


Reverend Steve Knutson, United Methodist Church of Seaford


Reverend Ann Morgan, United Methodist Church of Merrick


Reverend Eric Rassmussen, United Methodist Church of Woodbury


Sister Judy Fay of Saint Joseph, Saint Rafael Church of East Meadow


The Long Island Council of Churches

Bruce E. Kelly, Coalition Coordinator, Putnam CTC Coalition


Kristin McConnell, Executive Director, National Council on Alcoholism & Other Drug Dependencies/Putnam


Alana M. Sweeny, President and CEO, United Way of Westchester and Putnam


Cecilia Clarke , President & CEO, Brooklyn Community Foundation


Julia Peterson, Program Officer, Pinkerton Foundation


Penny Wilgerodt, Executive Director, Prospect Hill foundation


Cavin Leeman, President, Stephen & May Cavin Leeman Foundaion


Maria Mattola, Executive Director, New York Foundation


Sol Marie Jones, Executive Director, Long Island Community Foundation


Elizabeth Wachs, President, Wachs Family Foundation


Peter Sills, Treasurer, Sills Family Foundation


Jacki Mann, President, Elias Foundation


Amy Freitag, Executive Director, J.M. Kaplan Fund


Emily Tow Jackson, Executive Director, Tow Foundation


Leslie Gimbel,, President & CEO, Bernard F. and Alva B. Gimbel Foundation


Lukas Haynes, Executive Director, David Rockefeller Fund


Leticia Peguero, Executive Director, Andrus Family Fund



About the Raise the Age NY campaign:

Raise the Age NY is a public awareness campaign that includes national and local advocates, youth, parents, law enforcement and legal representative groups, faith leaders, and unions that have come together to increase public awareness of the need to implement a comprehensive approach to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York State so that the legal process responds to all children as children and provides services and placement options that better meet the rehabilitative needs of all children and youth.


New York is one of only two states in the country (the other is North Carolina) that have failed to recognize what research and science have confirmed – adolescents are children, and prosecuting and placing them in the adult criminal justice system doesn’t work for them and doesn’t work for public safety.


Children who are prosecuted as adults are more likely to continue committing crimes in the future. Children who are treated as children are more likely to stay out of jail, and out of the justice system:


–          Studies have found that young people prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system are 34% more likely to be re-arrested for violent or other crime than youth retained in the youth justice system.


–          A study comparing youth prosecuted in New York’s adult courts to young people prosecuted for the same felonies in New Jersey’s juvenile courts found that the New York youth were more likely to recidivate . Not only were New York youth 100% more likely to rearrested for a violent crime, they also had higher re-incarceration rates and shorter time periods to re-arrest than their New Jersey peers.


–          In 2013, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission found that when the state began prosecuting 17-year-olds as juveniles, juvenile crime continued to decline. Moreover, between 2010 when the law changed, until 2013, the state experienced a 14% decrease in violent crime. Contrary to what opponents had predicted, including 17-year-olds did not overload the juvenile justice system, nor did it increase juvenile offenses.


–          Research into brain development underscores that adolescents are in fact children and that the human brain is not fully formed until the age of 25:


–          As the cognitive skills of adolescents are developing, adolescents’ behavior is often impulsive and they lack the ability to focus on the consequences of their behavior.


–          Because the adolescent brain is still developing, the character, personality traits and behavior of adolescents are highly receptive to change; adolescents respond well to interventions, learn to make responsible choices, and are likely to grow out of negative or delinquent behavior.


Raise the Age NY is a campaign that supports raising the age of criminal responsibility for all children in New York to improve outcomes for children and public safety.


For more information about the Raise the Age campaign, visit www.raisetheageny.com.


Lead group members:

Center for Community Alternatives

Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York

Correctional Association of New York

Families Together in NYS

Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies



Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy

The Children’s Agenda

The Children’s Defense Fund – New York

The Fund for Modern Courts

Westchester Children’s Association

Youth Represent


Additional supporters to date:

1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East


Alternatives for Battered Women

American Friends Service Committee (NY)

Amnesty International

Arab American Association of NY

Association for Community Living, Inc.

Association of NYS Youth Bureaus

Association to Benefit Children

Harry Belafonte

Bronx Christian Fellowship Church

Bronx Clergy Roundtable

Brooklyn Community Services

Brooklyn Defender Services

Campaign to End the New Jim Crow

Casa Rochester/Monroe County, Inc.

Center for Children’s Initiatives

Center for Popular Democracy

Child Welfare Organizing Project

Children’s Village

Citizens Action of New York

City of Glen Cove Youth Bureau

Coalition for Asian American Children and Families

Coalition for Education Justice

Coalition for Hispanic Children and Families

Coalition for the Homeless

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

Commission on the Public’s Health System

Communities United for Police Reform

Community Connections for Youth

Community Service Society

Community Voices for Youth and Families

Crossway Church

Dignity in Schools Campaign – New York

Equal Justice Initiative

Faith in New York

Families On The Move of NYC, Inc.

First Corinthian Baptist Church

Forestdale Inc.

Good Shepherd Services

Graham Windham
Harlem Children’s Zone

Human Services Council

Jewish Child Care Association

Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club

Latino Justice PRLDEF

Lawyers for Children

Leake &Watts Services, Inc.

Legal Action Center

Legal Aid Society

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House

Long Island Progressive Coalition

Lutheran Family Health Centers

Make the Road New York
Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.

Montefiore School Health Program

National Association of Social Workers – New York State

National Economic and Social Rights Initiative

Neighborhood Family Services Coalition

New York American Academy of Pediatrics, District II

New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers, Inc.

New York Center for Juvenile Justice

New York Civil Liberties Union

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

New York Society for Ethical Culture

New York State Coalition for Children’s Mental Health

New York State Coalition for School-Based Health Centers

New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare

New York Theological Seminary

NYC Jails Action Coalition

Partnership for After School Education (PASE)

Partnership for the Public Good

Partners in Restorative Initiatives

Pumphouse Projects

Save the Kids

SCO Family of Services

Staten Island Council on Child Abuse and Neglect

S.T.R.O.N.G. Youth Inc. 

Teachers Unite

The Black Institute

The Brotherhood/Sister Sol

The Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES)

The Children’s Aid Society

The Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies, Inc.

The Fortune Society

The Legal Aid Society

The New York Foundling

The Osborne Association

The Partnership For Public Good

The Resolution Plan

Tremont United Methodist Church

United Neighborhood Houses

Unique People Services

Uniting Disabled Individuals, Inc

Urban Health Plan, Inc.

Urban Justice Center

Urban Youth Collaborative


Women’s City Club of New York

Pastor Mike Walrond

William F. Ryan Community Health Network









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