Raise the Age Rally in Albany Urges State Leaders to Pass Smart-on-Crime Legislation

Press Releases

March 7, 2017

Research Shows Charging 16 and 17-Year-Olds as Adults is Detrimental to Youth Development, Bad for Public Safety

ALBANY, NY – Hundreds of Raise the Age advocates, leaders and supporters gathered in Albany today, demanding state leaders raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old and include it in the final budget. Support for raise the age legislation has garnered significant momentum recently – Governor Cuomo included Raise the Age legislation in his budget, the Assembly passed a bill last month, Senate Democrats and the IDC have both voiced support and Senate Republicans expressed an openness to legislation.

New York and North Carolina are the only two remaining states that charge all 16 and 17-year old youth as adults, despite research and studies showing that raising the age of criminal responsibility improves public safety and leads to better outcomes for youth.

“This is the year for New York to join 48 other states in implementing common sense criminal justice reforms,” said Naomi Post, Executive Director for the Children’s Defense Fund-New York.  “Charging youth as adults proves harmful to their development, increases recidivism and ultimately does not keep our communities safe.”

“Charging youth as youth ensures they receive the interventions they need, which has been proven to protect public safety by reducing recidivism,” said Jennifer March, Executive Director of Citizens’ Committee for Children.  “In addition, the Family Court is the right venue for most of these cases to be heard because the Family Court can address the needs of the family when appropriate, the Judges and attorneys have years of experience and training, as well as access to the services that have already been proven to be effective.”

“Once again, we rally together to call on the legislature to finally pass a comprehensive Raise the Age initiative,” said Paige Pierce, CEO of Families Together in New York State. “While we’ve spent years sharing the data, science, and often detrimental consequences our current system exacts, 16 and 17-year-old children have been counting on us to rescue them from the physical and emotional harm they often endure. We must respond with systemic reforms that will consider such youth as more than an inmate number, providing them with the supports and services they need to succeed and a pathway to productive citizenship.”

“When the state puts 16 and 17-year-old kids into adult prisons, it is sending the message that we as a society have given up on them,” said Ivette Alfonso, President of Citizen Action of New York.  “A young man or woman who’s brain functions are not fully developed does not belong in a jail cell, they need counseling and support. If we are going to be serious about rehabilitation, New York state must break from the cycle of pushing kids from schools to prisons, and raise the age.”

“While 28,000 young lives hang in the balance, we wait, seemingly in vain, for true leadership on this vital issue rather than political calculation and gamesmanship. We need to pass comprehensive raise the age legislation this budget session,” said Executive Director Cora Greenberg, Westchester Children’s Association.

“CCA, with youth and parents we serve, has long been calling for the New York State Legislature to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18.  Each year of inaction has harmed many young people warehoused in the adult criminal justice system. It is imperative that 2017 becomes the year that New York State ends its pariah status and enacts this just and fair reform,” said CCA Senior Policy Fellow, Marsha Weissman.

“The Legislature and Governor Cuomo have a genuine opportunity to fully raise the age of criminal responsibility and finally bring New York’s juvenile justice system in line with the 48 other states ,” said Tami Steckler, Attorney-In-Charge of the Juvenile Rights Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “But the devil is in the details, and any efforts that would expand crimes under the juvenile offender law or refuse to recognize all 16 and 17 year olds as adolescents undermines true and needed reform. New York families deserve better and they deserve a full-fledged, comprehensive raise the age immediately.”

The final budget will be implemented by March 31.

You can follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag, #RaisetheAgeNY

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.

Studies also show that children charged as adults are most likely prosecuted for low-level crimes and children of color have disproportionate rates of incarceration.

  • Nearly 28,000 16 and 17-year olds are arrested and face the possibility of prosecution as adults in criminal court each year – the vast majority for minor crimes (72% are misdemeanors).
  • Over 70% 16 and 17 year olds arrested are Black or Latino. Of those sentenced to incarceration, 80% are black and Latino.

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

Incarcerated Nation Corp.

Jewish Child Care Association

Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club

Latino Justice PRLDEF

Lawyers for Children

Leake &Watts Services, Inc.

Legal Action Center

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.

MFY Legal Services, 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 State Council of Churches

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 National Alliance for Mental Illness-New York State

The New York Foundling

The New York State Dispute Resolution Association

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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