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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.
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 also show that children charged as adults are most likely prosecuted for low-level crimes and children of color have disproportionate rates of incarceration.
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:
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
Additional supporters to date:
1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
Alternatives for Battered Women
American Friends Service Committee (NY)
Arab American Association of NY
Association for Community Living, Inc.
Association of NYS Youth Bureaus
Association to Benefit Children
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
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
Dignity in Schools Campaign – New York
Equal Justice Initiative
Faith in New York
Families On The Move of NYC, Inc.
First Corinthian Baptist Church
Good Shepherd Services
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
Save the Kids
SCO Family of Services
Staten Island Council on Child Abuse and Neglect
S.T.R.O.N.G. Youth Inc.
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