Why This Matters
WCA fights to keep kids out of the criminal justice system because:
- Moving young people who commit crimes out of the adult criminal justice system and into the juvenile justice system gives them better options for employment, higher education, housing, and a positive future.
- Brain science reveals adolescents are still children and should be treated in ways appropriate to their physical and mental development. [i]
- The juvenile justice system is better equipped to address drug or alcohol abuse problems, mental health issues or learning disabilities, and other struggles of young people.
- The majority of crimes committed by teens are misdemeanors and when treated as juveniles the reoffend rates go down and communities are safer.[ii]
- Young people incarcerated as adults are 2X more likely to be physically harmed by staff; 5X more likely to be sexually assaulted than youth in juvenile facilities; and 36X more likely to commit suicide.[iii]
- Criminal justice reform is a part of increasing racial equity and disrupting the school to prison pipeline for children of color.
The Issue (Explanation and Background)
The Raise the Age NY Campaign has worked tirelessly to raise the age of criminal responsibility in NY from 16 to 18. Since 2013, WCA has been the Campaign’s lead agency in Westchester. Advocacy efforts included educating the public and decision makers, organizing online action alerts and social media, mobilizing clergy in a letter writing campaign, and bringing young people to Albany for RTA lobby days.
- A young person 16 or 17 years old arrested in New York State is automatically charged as an adult until new legislation goes into effect October 2018.
- This long-awaited reform will improve the lives of thousands of youth, increase public safety, and make New York’s judicial system more fair and just for youth.
- African-American children and youth are disproportionally involved in justice systems. In Westchester, Black teens represent 15% of the population yet 49% of the arrests in 2016. – data bulletin[iv]
Successful implementation will require that the state and all counties have sufficient resources, including but not limited to funding for service-rich facilities, probation, and community based services.
- Advocating for the state to fully fund raise the age.
- Pushing for Westchester to implement raise the age correctly using best practices.
- Convening our partners from the court systems, local police, DA’s office, County departments, CBOs, schools, parents and youth to coordinate implementation.
- Keeping the numerous stakeholders focused on the big picture of improving kids’ lives.
- Monitoring and tracking progress and success.
- Supporting ancillary reforms including reducing pretrial detention by collaborating with new partners, like JLUSA.
How to get involved
- One-click advocacy
- Join WCA’s connecting youth work group
- Join the campaign at rasietheageny.com
- Follow the conversation on social media with #RaiseTheAgeNY
- Sign up for WCA Advocacy Alerts
- Support our work
For more information
- Raise the Age NY One Pager
- Road Map to Raise the Age
- Flowchart of new court processing
- Link to statewide campaign rasietheageny.com