Press Release by Raise the Age NY Campaign.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Saturday, June 18, 2016
Faith Leaders, Children’s Advocates and Raise the Age Supporters Slam Legislature’s Inaction
Raise the Age Fails to Pass Despite Widespread Support; New York Still One of Two States in the Country to Charge 16-year-olds as Adults
Campaign Urges Legislature to Address this Smart–On–Crime Policy in Coming Months
Albany, NY— Faith leaders, advocates and Raise the Age supporters released statements today following the end of session expressing their disappointment in the Legislature’s inaction on legislation that would raise the age at which youth are automatically charged as adults in New York. New York is currently one of two states in the country to charge 16-year-olds as adults; the other is North Carolina.
Governor Cuomo included a proposal to raise the age in his 2016-2017 Executive Budget. The proposal holds youth charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies accountable in Family Court and creates a special designation within the adult Criminal Court to handle the cases of youth charged with violent felonies. Unfortunately the proposal was not included in the final budget and failed to be voted on this session.
“We are disappointed to see New York turn its back on its children. Raising the age is common-sense legislation that studies show improves public safety. Forty-eight other states have already raised the age. By refusing to act, the New York Legislature is making it even more likely that we will be the last state in the country to still charge 16-year-olds as adults,” said Naomi Post, Executive Director, Children’s Defense Fund. “Youth do not belong in the adult criminal justice system, so we will be back and continue to call for legislation that would have a meaningful impact on New York’s youth and communities.”
“New York has been behind on this issue for far too long. Raising the age has support on both sides of the aisle and from law enforcement, faith leaders and other experts. It’s outrageous that it failed to even be voted on this session. This legislation would improve public safety, while also improving outcomes for young people. We need our youth to be charged in an age-appropriate manner that ensures they get the services needed to help them turn their lives around and reduce recidivism,” said Paige Pierce, CEO, Families Together in New York State.
“If New York wanted to truly reduce crime and improve the outcomes for its youth, then it should have raised the age this legislative session. Raising the age reduces recidivism and improves the safety of our communities. Instead, New York continues to fall behind other states that are implementing smart–on–crime reforms. We hope that it won’t take North Carolina, the only other state that automatically charges 16-year-olds as adults, taking action to spur our elected officials to do the right thing. We stand ready to work with Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature to ensure that our youth are no longer condemned to a life of crime, violence and abuse through the adult criminal justice system,” said Jennifer March, Executive Director, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York.
“Disappointment does not begin to explain our frustration with the inability of the New York Legislature to raise the age of criminal responsibility,” said Cora Greenberg, Executive Director of the Westchester Children’s Association. “They continue to discount the experience of 48 other states, what brain science tells us, the recommendations of a Commission of experts, and the voting public, all to the detriment of our children. This session, the legislature very quickly developed an understanding of the benefits of treating substance abuse not as a crime, but a public health issue in need of support. Why not give 16 and 17 year-olds in the criminal justice system the same sort of resources and supports to turn their young lives around? Just up the road, Connecticut has raised the age and is seeing better outcomes for 16 and 17 year olds, as well as lower recidivism rates and lower rates of arrests for young people. In spite of all the concerns regarding raising the age in Connecticut, the sky did not fall.”
“Failing to pass legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York is both a matter of injustice and public safety. Research has long demonstrated the negative impact of adult incarceration on youth and society,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director of FPWA. “The opportunity to achieve this change in the law has been lost once again, but our commitment to securing a more just law in the next session is made stronger.”
“As a state that leads in so many ways, it is extremely disappointing that New York has, once again, failed to pass legislation that would bring us in line with the rest of the country on juvenile justice,” said Kate Breslin, President & CEO, Schuyler Center for Analysis & Advocacy. “That New York continues to automatically treat all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in our justice system ignores evidence that doing so doesn’t work for youth, doesn’t work for public safety, and is not cost-effective for tax payers.”
“Frequently youth involved in the justice system have substance use disorders or have a family member with substance abuse disorders and need services,” said John Coppola, Executive Director. Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers of NY State. “Raising the age of criminal responsibility and ensuring that youth with receive the treatment services they need would significantly enhance the likelihood that youth will move on to live productive lives and avoid the justice system.”
“We regret that the NYS legislature failed to take action this session to protect our youth and our communities by raising the age of criminal responsibility in NY. As a strictly evidence-based organization, we can attest to the fact that this failure to act greatly endangers 16- and 17-year olds in adult jails and prisons, and it means they are more likely to re-offend after they are released,” said Larry Marx, Executive Director of The Children’s Agenda, Rochester, NY.
About the Raise the Age NY campaign:
Raise the Age NY is a public awareness campaign that includes national and local advocates, youth, parents, law enforcement and legal representative groups, faith leaders, and unions that have come together to increase public awareness of the need to implement a comprehensive approach to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York State so that the legal process responds to all children as children and provides services and placement options that better meet the rehabilitative needs of all children and youth.
New York is one of only two states in the country (the other is North Carolina) 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.
Children who are prosecuted as adults are more likely to continue committing crimes in the future. Children who are treated as children are more likely to stay out of jail, and out of the justice system:
- Studies have found that young people prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system are 34% more likely to be re-arrested for violent or other crime than youth retained in the youth justice system.
- A study comparing youth prosecuted in New York’s adult courts to young people prosecuted for the same felonies in New Jersey’s juvenile courts found that the New York youth were more likely to recidivate. Not only were New York youth 100% more likely to rearrested for a violent crime, they also had higher re-incarceration ratesand shorter time periods to re-arrest than their New Jersey peers.
- In 2013, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission found that when the state began prosecuting 17-year-olds as juveniles, juvenile crime continued to decline. Moreover, between 2010 when the law changed, until 2013, the state experienced a 14% decrease in violent crime. Contrary to what opponents had predicted, including 17-year-olds did not overload the juvenile justice system, nor did it increase juvenile offenses.
Research into brain development underscores that adolescents are in fact children and that the human brain is not fully formed until the age of 25:
- As the cognitive skills of adolescents are developing, adolescents’ behavior is often impulsive and they lack the ability to focus on the consequences of their behavior.
- Because the adolescent brain is still developing, the character, personality traits and behavior of adolescents are highly receptive to change; adolescents respond well to interventions, learn to make responsible choices, and are likely to grow out of negative or delinquent behavior.
- Raise the Age NY is a campaign that supports raising the age of criminal responsibility for all children in New York to improve outcomes for children and public safety.
For more information about the Raise the Age campaign, visit www.raisetheageny.com.
Lead group members:
Center for Community Alternatives
Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York
Correctional Association of New York
Families Together in NYS
Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies
Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy
The Children’s Agenda
The Children’s Defense Fund – New York
The Fund for Modern Courts
Westchester Children’s Association
Additional supporters to date:
1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
Alternatives for Battered Women
American Friends Service Committee (NY)
Arab American Association of NY
Association for Community Living, Inc.
Association of NYS Youth Bureaus
Association to Benefit Children
Bronx Christian Fellowship Church
Bronx Clergy Roundtable
Brooklyn Community Services
Brooklyn Defender Services
Campaign to End the New Jim Crow
Casa Rochester/Monroe County, Inc.
Center for Children’s Initiatives
Center for Popular Democracy
Child Welfare Organizing Project
Citizens Action of New York
City of Glen Cove Youth Bureau
Coalition for Asian American Children and Families
Coalition for Education Justice
Coalition for Hispanic Children and Families
Coalition for the Homeless
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Commission on the Public’s Health System
Communities United for Police Reform
Community Connections for Youth
Community Service Society
Community Voices for Youth and Families
Dignity in Schools Campaign – New York
Equal Justice Initiative
Faith in New York
Families On The Move of NYC, Inc.
First Corinthian Baptist Church
Good Shepherd Services
Harlem Children’s Zone
Human Services Council
Incarcerated Nation Corp.
Jewish Child Care Association
Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club
Latino Justice PRLDEF
Lawyers for Children
Leake &Watts Services, Inc.
Legal Action Center
Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
Long Island Progressive Coalition
Lutheran Family Health Centers
Make the Road New York
Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.
MFY Legal Services, Inc.
Montefiore School Health Program
National Association of Social Workers – New York State
National Economic and Social Rights Initiative
Neighborhood Family Services Coalition
New York American Academy of Pediatrics, District II
New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers, Inc.
New York Center for Juvenile Justice
New York Civil Liberties Union
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
New York Society for Ethical Culture
New York State Coalition for Children’s Mental Health
New York State Coalition for School-Based Health Centers
New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare
New York Theological Seminary
NYC Jails Action Coalition
Partnership for After School Education (PASE)
Partnership for the Public Good
Partners in Restorative Initiatives
Save the Kids
SCO Family of Services
Staten Island Council on Child Abuse and Neglect
S.T.R.O.N.G. Youth Inc.
The Black Institute
The Brotherhood/Sister Sol
The Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES)
The Children’s Aid Society
The Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies, Inc.
The Fortune Society
The Legal Aid Society
The National Alliance for Mental Illness-New York State
The New York Foundling
The New York State Dispute Resolution Association
The Osborne Association
The Partnership For Public Good
The Resolution Plan
Tremont United Methodist Church
United Neighborhood Houses
Unique People Services
Uniting Disabled Individuals, Inc
Urban Health Plan, Inc.
Urban Justice Center
Urban Youth Collaborative
Women’s City Club of New York
Pastor Mike Walrond
William F. Ryan Community Health Network