Statement from Raise the Age NY Re: Recommendations from the Governor’s Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice

Press Releases

January 20, 2015

Contact: Tolu Onafowokan, 646-200-5331,

In response to today’s recommendations from the Governor’s Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice the Raise the Age NY Campaign released the following statement:

“We applaud Governor Cuomo for reaffirming his commitment to ensure that children charged with offenses are treated in an age-appropriate manner, reducing the likelihood that youth re-offend and protecting our communities. We look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to bring New York’s legal system in line with scientific research and create outcomes that are best for public safety and our youth.”

In April 2014, following an initial announcement in his 2014 State of the State Address, Governor Cuomo announced the members of the Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice. Governor Cuomo tasked the group of legal, criminal justice, and social services experts with providing clear recommendations on how to reform New York’s criminal and juvenile justice systems and raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York State.

“With this package of reforms, New York stands poised to be a national leader in protecting our children and our communities. Governor Cuomo’s common-sense criminal justice reforms will help ensure children are treated as children and don’t reoffend. I look forward to working with the Governor’s office and the Senate and Assembly to turn these proposals into laws that truly benefit children and society,” said Melanie Hartzog, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund – New York.

“It has been my honor and privilege to work side by side with dedicated professionals from across the state to put into place legislation and an implementation plan that effectively addressed youth offenses and matches sanctions and responses with the offense.  I am confident that the diligence and care taken by the members of the Commission will yield positive results.  As a member of the Commission, I was impressed and grateful for the guidance of the leadership and the support and trust of the Governor and his office,” said Dr. Elaine Spaull, Executive Director, The Center for Youth and Rochester City Councilwoman.

“On this day of remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. — I commend New York State, Governor Cuomo and the Commission for proposing a package of reforms that bends toward justice for children and youths by treating them as children and youth and ensuring that they have the chance to turn their lives around and become productive citizens,” said Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund. “The Governor and state Legislature now have the opportunity to enact this long-overdue proposal, which would make New York State a leader in juvenile justice.”

“Adult convictions have stopped young people from getting jobs, finding a place to live, and going to college for too long,” said Laurie Parise, Executive Director of Youth Represent. “The Governor’s leadership on this issue has been commendable, and we look forward to a time when youth don’t face lifetime penalties for childhood mistakes.”

“We urge the state to make efforts to offer 16 and 17 year olds the rehabilitative, therapeutic and educational opportunities that will help them turn their lives around. With the right supports youth are less likely to recidivate, therefore making our communities safer and giving our young people the chance for a productive, engaged future,” said Cora Greenberg, Executive Director of the Westchester Children’s Association. “Having funding to provide alternative services to 16 and 17 year olds is key to the success of these reforms. “

“Governor Cuomo and the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice should be commended for developing a plan that will better protect the safety of all New Yorkers while at the same time improving life outcomes for New York’s youth. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to make this the year when we finally Raise the Age!” said Jennifer March, Executive Director of the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York.

“I am pleased to see that Governor Cuomo has demonstrated his commitment to children and has made juvenile justice reform a priority for 2015,” said former State Senator John R. Dunne, Vice Chair of the Committee for Modern Courts. “We have known for decades that the adult criminal justice system fails children and the public. It overburdens our courts and stands in the way of fair and equitable access to justice for children.  Raising the age is a critical step towards shaping these children’s future, improving our court system and protecting public safety.”

“Raising the age of criminal responsibility is a critical step towards meaningful reform and justice for children in crisis, and we are very encouraged by the Governor’s demonstrated commitment,” said Angelo Pinto, campaign manager of the Correctional Association’s Raise the Age Campaign.  “Emphasizing care and compassion over punishment and indifference is wise and humane public policy, and we look forward to seeing substantive changes.”

“Comprehensive evidence driven reform of our state’s juvenile justice system is long overdue.  As such, we applaud the Governor’s prioritization today for raising the age of criminal responsibility and reconstructing our system to one that is developmentally appropriate, rehabilitative in nature and provides our children with path to productive citizenship,” said Paige Pierce, Executive Director of Families Together in New York State.

“We are so pleased to support the Governor and his Commission’s wide ranging proposals for juvenile justice reform.   These recommendations will benefit young people across New York State.  All our communities benefit when youth are treated are offered developmentally-appropriate options that can help them mature and become productive adults,”said Marsha Weissman, Executive Director, Center for Community Alternatives.

“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,” said Russell Simmons, CEO of Rush Communications.

“The school to prison pipeline is alive and well in New York and today we take a step closer to ending it,” said Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference. “The NAACP New York State Conference and its 56 adult units and Youth and College Chapters congratulate Governor Cuomo and the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice for their staunch leadership and dedicated work. Raise The Age will continue to be one of our highest priorities until final passage.”

“Treating children as adults in the criminal justice system is ineffective and short-sighted,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. “Time and time again, research has demonstrated that children tried and prosecuted as adults are not only more likely to continue committing crimes, they are also less likely to find employment and have access to educational opportunities. We applaud the Governor for taking a leading role in reforming New York’s criminal and juvenile justice systems, and we look forward to doing our part to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York State.”

“Funding the organizations working on reforming juvenile justice in New York has long been a priority at The New York Community Trust,” said Roderick Jenkins, Senior Program Officer at The Trust. “Our state is evolving from laggard to leader in this field and we’re proud to be part of this historic shift.”

“We applaud Governor Cuomo and the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice for finally moving us away a broken ideology that did little to improve public safety. With the Governor’s support we can help these juveniles build a new life rather than cycling in and out of a criminal justice system that fails to rehabilitate,” said Dr. Jeremy Kohoman, President and Chief Executive of The Children’s Village and Harlem Dowling.

“Youth and the public will be better served by raising the age of jurisdictional age for juvenile justice. Research demonstrates that the adult criminal justice system is not appropriate for 16- and 17-year-olds who are still developing cognitively. I support New York’s efforts to create a system that treat children as children and offer youth opportunities for rehabilitation” said Kate Breslin, President and CEO of Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy. “The research is clear that the outcomes for youth sent to adult prisons are poor and youth are at greater risk for harm in adult prisons.  Youth and the public will be better served by raising the age of criminal accountability.”

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.[i]

·      A study comparing New York youth to young people in New Jersey who had committed similar felonies but were treated in different systems, found that the New York youth were more likely to recidivate.[ii] New York youth had higher re-arrest rates, higher re-incarceration rates, and a shorter time period to re-arrestthan their New Jersey peers.[iii]

·      A second study of 2,000 youth charged with robbery, burglary and assault in New York and New Jersey found that youth in New York were 85% more likely to be re-arrested for a violent crime.[iv]

·      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.[v]  Contrary to what opponents had predicted, including 17-year-olds did not overload the juvenile justice system, nor did it increase juvenile offenses.[vi]

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.[vii]

·      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.[viii]

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

Supporters of the statewide Raise the Age New York campaign include:

Lead group members:

Center for Community Alternatives

Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York

Committee for Modern Courts

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

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)

Arab American Association of NY

Association for Community Living, Inc.

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

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

Crossway Church

Dignity in Schools Campaign – New York

Equal Justice Initiative

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

Latino Justice PRLDEF

Lawyers for Children

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.

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 School-Based Health Centers

New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare

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

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

Urban Health Plan, Inc.

Urban Justice Center

Urban Youth Collaborative


Pastor Mike Walrond

William F. Ryan Community Health Network




[i] Effects on Violence of Laws and Policies Facilitating the Transfer of Youth from the Juvenile to the Adult Justice System: Report on Recommendations of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 30, 2007,

[ii] Fagen, J., “The Comparative Advantage of Juvenile vs. Criminal Court Sanctions on Recidivism Among Adolescent Felony Offenders,”Law and Policy, Vol. 18 # 1 and 2, Jan/Apr. 1996.

[iii] Fagen, J., “The Comparative Advantage of Juvenile vs. Criminal Court Sanctions on Recidivism Among Adolescent Felony Offenders,” Law and Policy, Vol. 18 # 1 and 2, Jan/Apr. 1996.

[iv] The Changing Borders of Juvenile Justice: Transfer of Adolescents to the Adult Criminal Court. Issue Brief 5. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice.

[v] Raising the Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction: The Future of 17-Year-Olds in Illinois’ Justice System, Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, February 2013

[vi] Raising the Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction: The Future of 17-Year-Olds in Illinois’ Justice System, Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, February 2013

[vii] MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice. Issue Brief #3: Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence. Retrieved from:

[viii]“What Makes Delinquent Youths ‘Go Right’?” Juvenile Justice: New Models for Reform(John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 2005): 16, accessed January 19, 2013,

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