The New York State Assembly has included Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Raise the Age” legislation in its one-house budget, which would increase the age of responsibility from 16 to 18 for juveniles charged with a crime, officials said.
Cuomo has been touting the plan for the past week, and recently released a video featuring law enforcement officials, community advocates and impacted youth voicing support for the proposal.
The state’s Republican-led Senate, however, has not yet agreed to the change, or included the legislation in its one-house budget during the recent negotiations taking place prior to the fiscal year which begins April 1.
“It is past time that we end the treatment of 16 and 17 year olds as adults in our criminal justice system,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx. “The Assembly budget proposal provides a thoughtful framework that will implement balanced, age appropriate, support-based reforms for processing juveniles charged with crimes.”
Cuomo’s proposal essentially would move 16- and 17-year-old juveniles who have been convicted of crimes as adults, into the juvenile justice system, instead.
In addition, The Assembly said its proposal would enact the following reforms:
- Enhance services that may be provided to youth who are adjudicated juvenile delinquents and PINS, including increased opportunities for diversion and adjustment of cases;
- Originate proceedings against most youth under the age of 18 in Family Court and maintain the ability to prosecute juveniles charged with the most serious, violent crimes in adult court when appropriate; and,
- Enact new provisions to allow persons convicted of non-violent offenses while under the age of 21 to have such convictions sealed to promote successful reentry.
According to Cuomo, “Under New York’s current laws, hundreds of young people are being placed in adult prisons where they face abuse, and limited opportunities to rebuild their lives. Raising the age, and reforming New York’s juvenile justice system is imperative, not just because it will help at-risk youths build successful futures, but because it will improve public safety in communities across the state. That is why this reform must pass this year, and I encourage all New Yorkers to join us in making our justice system stronger and fairer for all.”
In addition, “Teenagers are not adults,” stated Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, D -North Brooklyn. “However, New York’s outdated laws continue to treat too many young people charged with crimes as adults and, as a result, they often suffer severe physical and emotional abuse and end up trapped in a cycle of incarceration and recidivism. We must act now to raise the age of criminal responsibility and provide for more effective and appropriate treatment of young people charged with crimes, reduce incidents of re-offense, and improve the opportunity for successful rehabilitation.”
New York and North Carolina are currently the only two states in which all youth are prosecuted as adults when they turn 16 years old.