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 Post #2-The first part of this post was written as lyrics by the author.
K.A., Youth Shelter Program of Westchester
Raise the age, 16 put in a cage, instead of helping us up they pushed us down to the base. Brain wasn’t developed but that wasn’t the case because to them we all bad cause we made a mistake. They don’t feel the pain, we just suffer from blame, our communities are bad enough without adding on that shame. Now getting a job is hard, turn savage like Sparta, 300 jobs denied because of what I used to be part of. But I’ve changed and my record stays the same, cause I’m black and where I’m from my life is just a game. Shed a tear, incarcerated, that’s showing fear, so you have to act tougher than you appear. You can get beat or your stuff taken, can’t go to sleep cause you busy looking or you can be safe all good but you thinking ‘bout your family’s safety in the hood.
I think we should raise the age from 16 to 18 because 66% of 16 and 17-year olds in Westchester County were arrested in 2015 for misdemeanor offenses and 17% were arrested for non-violent felonies leaving only 17% that were violent felonies. Adult prison is no place for a minor. Studies show that our brains do not stop developing until we are 25 years of age. When minors are surrounded by bad examples, they tend to pick that behavior up and think that it’s cool to do things that might mess up their lives and they don’t even know what the consequences are until it’s too late.
When I was 16, I was arrested and was sent to jail in Valhalla. I had just turned 16 on November 1st and I was arrested on November 2nd. I never had any criminal charges before, no family court involvement, and had never been in any kind of trouble with the law, but I was still sent to Valhalla. While I was there, I met people that glorified the things they had done, so at first I looked at it as if those things were cool that was until I received my first visit from my mom. My mom told me that my little brother was too scared to come see me and I wouldn’t let my little sister come see me because I didn’t want her to come to visit me and only see me behind glass.
 Source: New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Computerized Criminal History System as of 1/17/2017
WCA would like to thank the Westchester Community Foundation for their generous support of the Teen Advocacy Leadership program.