Westchester Children’s Association Reacts to Governor’s Commission and “Raise the Age”

Findings Will Have Impact on Roughly 1000 Westchester Youth

WHITE PLAINS, NY — “Treating 16 and 17 year olds as children, rather than adults, in the justice system will positively impact the lives of roughly 1,000 Westchester youth every single year. These reforms will provide our county’s youth with the rehabilitative, therapeutic and educational opportunities that will help them turn their lives around. With the right supports youth are less likely to recidivate, therefore making our communities safer and giving our young people the chance for a productive, engaged future.

“As a member of the Raise the Age Campaign, Westchester Children’s Association applauds Governor Cuomo for reaffirming his commitment to ensure that children charged with offenses are treated in an age-appropriate manner, reducing the likelihood that youth re-offend and protecting our communities. We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor’s Commission to bring New York’s legal system in line with scientific research and create outcomes that are best for public safety and our youth.” – Cora Greenberg, executive director of Westchester Children’s Association

About Westchester Children’s Association:

Westchester Children’s Association, established in 1914, is one of the oldest children’s advocacy organizations in the United States. It has remained steadfast in its mission: to improve the lives of Westchester’s children by using data to understand their needs, shaping policies and programs to meet their needs, and educating and mobilizing voters to keep those needs at the top of the public agenda.

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.[1]
  • A study comparing New York youth to young people in New Jersey who had committed similar felonies but were treated in different systems, found that the New York youth weremore likely to recidivate. New York youth had higher re-arrest rates, higher re-incarceration rates, and a shorter time period to re-arrestthan their New Jersey peers.[2]
  • A second study of 2,000 youth charged with robbery, burglary and assault in New York and New Jersey found that youth in New York were 85% more likely to be re-arrested for a violent crime.[3]
  • 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.[4]

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.[5]
  • 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.[6]

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.

[1] Effects on Violence of Laws and Policies Facilitating the Transfer of Youth from the Juvenile to the Adult Justice System: Report on Recommendations of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 30, 2007, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5609a1.htm.

[2] Fagen, J., “The Comparative Advantage of Juvenile vs. Criminal Court Sanctions on Recidivism Among Adolescent Felony Offenders,”Law and Policy, Vol. 18 # 1 and 2, Jan/Apr. 1996.

[3] The Changing Borders of Juvenile Justice: Transfer of Adolescents to the Adult Criminal Court. Issue Brief 5. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice. http://www.adjj.org/downloads/3582issue_brief_5.pdf.

[4] Raising the Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction: The Future of 17-Year-Olds in Illinois’ Justice System, Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, February 2013 http://ijjc.illinois.gov/sites/ijjc.illinois.gov/files/assets/IJJC%20-%20Raising%20the%20Age%20Report.pdf.

[5] MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice. Issue Brief #3: Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence. Retrieved from: http://www.adjj.org/downloads/6093issue_brief_3.pdf.

[6] “What Makes Delinquent Youths ‘Go Right’?” Juvenile Justice: New Models for Reform(John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 2005): 16, accessed January 19, 2013, http://www.macfound.org/press/publications/juvenile-justice-new-models-for-reform/

Media Contact: Joan Grangenois-Thomas, media@wca4kids.org.