Westchester Children’s Association received a grant through the Westchester Community Foundation to teach two Teen Advocacy Leadership courses. We focused the advocacy lessons around one of our priority issues, Raise the Age (click here to learn more about RTA). We will feature guest posts from our young advocates. This series will continue through the month of March. We hope you enjoy their stories as much as we do.
Guest Blog #7
R. C., Youth Shelter Program
We should raise the age of criminal responsibility because treating children as adults in the criminal justice system is shortsighted and ineffective; youth incarcerated in adult facilities are more likely to suffer physical and emotional abuse and to recidivate. These realities are at odds with the goal of rehabilitating youth and protecting public safety. Youth that are placed in adult prisons are twice as likely to report being beaten by staff and 50% more likely to be attacked with a weapon than children placed in youth facilities. New York is one of only two states in the country that has failed to recognize what science and research has confirmed: adolescents are still children. Furthermore, children as young as 13 to 15 can be prosecuted in adult criminal courts, seriously diminishing their prospects before they even enter high school. Youth in adult prisons face the highest risk of sexual assault of all inmate populations and they do not have access to same age-appropriate rehabilitative services that are available in juvenile facilities. Youth are 36 times more likely to commit suicide when housed in an adult prison. Rather than continuing to lock young people up in adult prisons, it is critical for New York to ensure that youth involved in the criminal justice system are provided with appropriate interrogation proceedings, court processes, placement and service options that are developmentally appropriate. The legal process must respond to all children as children. Services and placement options must meet the rehabilitative need for all young people. Raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York is in the best interest of all New York’s children and youth, and will make our communities safer.
WCA would like to thank the Westchester Community Foundation for their generous support of the Teen Advocacy Leadership program.