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 # 8
A.S., Youth Shelter Program
New York State should raise the age of criminal responsibility because most 16 and 17 years olds are non-violent offenders. Youth in adult facilities are more likely to be physically harmed by staff, and are more likely to be sexually assaulted than youth in juvenile facilities; sadly, they are more likely to commit suicide. New York and North Carolina are the only two states in the country 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. In 2016, in Westchester County, over 75% of 16 and 17 year olds arrested were either Black or Hispanic.
 Source: New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Computerized Criminal History System as of 1/17/2017
Guest Blog #9
S.H., Youth Shelter Program
The Teen Advocacy Leadership program addressed many issues regarding adolescents that go through the criminal justice system. Our main focus is raising the age for which a teen can be charged as an adult. In New York State, if someone is age 16 or older, they can be detained in an adult correctional facility if convicted and may not have the option of having their charges adjudicated. According to multiple studies, youth incarcerated in adult facilities are more likely to be physically abused and raped. A child’s brain is not fully developed until the age of 25 and therefore during his or her adolescent years he or she is more likely to make irrational decisions that may result in their imprisonment. Our goal is to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 so that convicted minors cango to juvenile facilities and receive rehabilitative services rather than be subjected to cruel and harsh environments at adult facilities. Teens who go through the adult criminal justice system are 34% more likely to return back to jail for more serious crimes. Treating youth as youth will lower crime rates among teens and adults.
 Source: http://raisetheageny.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Raise-the-Age-NY-Campaign-Fact-Sheet-2017.pdf
WCA would like to thank the Westchester Community Foundation for their generous support of the Teen Advocacy Leadership program.