Why This Matters
Raise the Age NY (RTA) is a statewide campaign to support raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York State from 16 to 18; WCA has been the Westchester County lead organization in this campaign for the past four years. Until this year, New York and North Carolina remained the only states where it has been legal to prosecute children under the age of 18 as adults. This goes against brain science that reveals adolescents are still children and should be treated in ways appropriate to their physical and mental development. 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 re-offenders.
“Protecting our children from a criminal justice system designed for adults is our moral obligation.”
-Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
As a member of the Raise the Age NY campaign, WCA has been working for four years to get New York State to pass comprehensive raise the age legislation. This year, our work has paid off.
On April 10th, 2017, Governor Cuomo signed RTA into law, raising the age for 16 year olds effective October 1, 2018 and 17 year olds effective October 1, 2019. While this legislation did not include all of the seven policy points we have been advocating for, it is certainly a giant step in the right direction. Below is a flow chart to help us understand exactly how the new RTA law will effect court processing.
What Are The Facts?
- Research on brain development underscores that adolescents are in fact children, and the human brain is not fully formed until the age of 25. As their cognitive skills are developing, adolescents often behave impulsively and lack the ability to focus on the consequences of their behavior.
- Studies show that youth in adult prisons are more likely to have a substantiated report of sexual violence, and are twice as likely to report being beaten by staff, and 50% more likely to be attacked with a weapon than children placed in juvenile facilities.
- Studies have found that young people in the adult criminal justice system were approximately 33.7% more likely to be re-arrested for a violent crime than youth retained in the juvenile justice system. Around 80% of youth released from adult prisons reoffend and are more likely to commit more serious crimes.
We Can Do Better
Getting Raise the Age signed into law was only the first step, now we must keep fighting for effective implementation of the law throughout the state and for the pieces that were not included, such as expanding youthful offender status to age 21 and reducing the amount of time (currently 10 years) for a youth’s record to be sealed. Our children’s futures demand we keep advocating for the best RTA legislation possible.
View a PDF of the key components of the new RTA law here.
“For far too long NY has been behind the curve on how we treat our children who end up in the criminal justice system. These reforms will put us on the right side of progress and ensure that future generations will not be crippled by the ineffective and outdated practices. Raising the age of criminal responsibility gives children who make mistakes a fighting chance as adults.”
-Assembly Member Nick Perry, Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus
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 MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice. Issue Brief #3: Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence. Retrieved from: http://www.adjj.org/downloads/6093issue_brief_3.pdf
 National Juvenile Justice Network. Keep Youth Out of Adult Prisons. Retrieved from: http://www.njjn.org/about-us/keep-youth-out-of-adult-prisons
 National Campaign to Reform State Juvenile Justice Systems. The Fourth Wave: Juvenile Justice Reforms for the Twenty-First Century; p. 20. Retrieved from: http://www.publicinterestprojects.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/JJ-Whitepaper-Design-Full-Final.pdf
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