Raise the Age NY: Faith Leaders, Children’s Advocates and Raise the Age Supporters Slam Legislature’s Inaction

Press Release by Raise the Age NY Campaign.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Saturday, June 18, 2016

Contact: Michael Rabinowitz-Gold, Rabinowitz@berlinrosen.com646-200-5308

 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

Youth Represent

Additional supporters to date:

1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East


Alternatives for Battered Women

American Friends Service Committee (NY)

Amnesty International

Arab American Association of NY

Association for Community Living, Inc.

Association of NYS Youth Bureaus

Association to Benefit Children

Harry Belafonte

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

Children’s Village

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

Crossway Church

Dignity in Schools Campaign – New York

Equal Justice Initiative

Faith in New York

Families On The Move of NYC, Inc.

First Corinthian Baptist Church

Forestdale Inc.

Good Shepherd Services

Graham Windham

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

Pumphouse Projects

Save the Kids

SCO Family of Services

Staten Island Council on Child Abuse and Neglect

S.T.R.O.N.G. Youth Inc.

Teachers Unite

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


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