|Advocates call on Senate to Raise the Age and prosecute fewer teenagers as adults.|
Text of press release.|
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Pierce, 518-852-9403 PPierce@FTNYS.org
Advocates Call on Elected Officials to Raise the Age, Protect Public Safety This Legislative Session
New York Remains One of Two States to Automatically Prosecute 16 and 17-Year-Olds As Adults, Despite Risks to Youth and Public Safety
Albany- As members of the New York State Senate return to Albany on Tuesday, November 10th to discuss their 2016 priority agenda, a coalition of law enforcement, labor and children’s advocates greeted them with a very clear message – “We’ve unfinished business, and we’re counting on you raise the age and prioritize New York’s kids and the safety of our streets.”
Despite the enormous amount of attention given to the issue last session as a high priority for Governor Cuomo, the session closed without a final agreement between the two houses and the Executive, leaving New York as only one of two states in the nation that continues to automatically process, prosecute and incarcerate 16 year-olds as adults, increasing the likelihood that youth who make a single mistake end up returning to the criminal justice system. The one other state that shares New York’s distinction as a hold-out for criminal prosecution of 16-year-olds, North Carolina, has begun a process leading toward increasing its age of criminal responsibility to 18.
As session closed, the Governor declared he would make changes through Executive Action stating “Right now 16- and 17-year olds are going to state prisons and that, I believe, is an intolerable situation. So by executive action we will take 16- and 17-year-olds out of state prisons and put them in separate facilities. I have spent time in prisons and that is not an environment that is suitable for 16- and 17-year olds and let me leave it at that.” While action to remove youth from adult prisons is expected soon, advocates point out that such a move is only a first step.
Research across the spectrum overwhelmingly supports raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction as a way to reduce recidivism and improve public safety. Our current system fails to recognize the strong scientific evidence indicating that most adolescent brains are not fully developed until the age of 24. Failing to recognize this research means that our current system misses opportunities for evidence-based interventions and diversion programs that hold youth accountable for their actions while teaching them a better way forward. Instead, youth sent through the adult system have higher re-arrest rates and often reoffend more seriously than their original crimes. Therefore, our current system is a tremendous waste of tax-payer money while actually undermining public safety in our communities.
In one of many studies completed on the topic of juvenile offenders in adult courts, the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice examined the effectiveness of prosecuting teens as adults by comparing such New York teens with their cohorts in the border state of New Jersey. Findings have many questioning the effectiveness of New York’s system. In New York City, juveniles as young as 13 can be charged in adult court, while in New Jersey, most juvenile offenders under the age of 18 are processed in juvenile court. When comparing youth arrested for the same felony offenses in New York City and New Jersey, data showed that “adolescents processed in the New York adult courts were more likely to be rearrested, they were re-arrested more often and more quickly and for more serious offenses, and they were re-incarcerated at higher rates than those in the New Jersey juvenile courts.”
Paige Pierce, CEO of Families Together in New York State, an active member of the Raise the Age Campaign, noted that “We’re back, and will continue to call on the legislature to prioritize comprehensive Raise the Age legislation that goes beyond shifting 16 and 17 year olds out of adult facilities and includes: raising the overall age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18, ensures there is parental notification upon the arrest of a 16 or 17 year old, ensures 16 and 17 year olds are interviewed using developmentally appropriate practices, better addresses the collateral consequences of court involvement, increases investments in the front-end diversion services that keep youth in their communities rather than incarceration, originates many cases of 16 and 17 year olds in Family court, creates Youth Parts in adult court for remaining cases, and apply the Family Court Act to as many youth as possible, regardless of which courthouse the case is heard and raises the lower age of juvenile delinquency from age 7 to age 12.”
"Nationwide our leaders are getting smarter on crime and New York has been behind on this issue for far too long, "said Melanie Hartzog of Children's Defense Fund. "Comprehensive youth justice reform, like Raise the Age, which is supported by law enforcement and other experts, will improve public safety, while also improving outcomes for young people."
"To really reduce crime and protect our communities, we need to make sure youth of 16 and 17 are prosecuted in an age-appropriate manner," said Jennifer March of the Citizens’ Committee for Children. "The Legislature needs to pass a comprehensive proposal that reduces recidivism and improves public safety."
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 rates and 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
Graham Windham Harlem Children's Zone
Human Services Council
Jewish Child Care Association
Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club
Latino Justice PRLDEF
Lawyers for Children
Leake &Watts Services, Inc.
Legal Action Center
Legal Aid Society
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.
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 New York Foundling
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