Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol, Correction Committee Chair Daniel O'Donnell, and Children and Families Committee Chair Donna Lupardo announced today the Assembly's Families First budget proposal includes a provision to raise the age of criminal responsibility for juveniles charged with offenses in New York State.
"It is past time that we end the treatment of 16 and 17 year olds as adults in our criminal justice system," said Heastie. "The Assembly budget proposal provides a thoughtful framework that will implement balanced, age appropriate, support-based reforms for processing juveniles charged with crimes."
"Teenagers are not adults," said Lentol. "However, New York's outdated laws continue to treat too many young people charged with crimes as adults and as a result, they often suffer severe physical and emotional abuse and end up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."
Data has continued to demonstrate that when 16 and 17 year old offenders are confined in settings with adult offenders, they suffer significant harm to both their social and psychological development and are more prone to suffer physical and sexual abuse, depression and suicidal behavior. Other states that have recently increased the age of criminal responsibility have seen dramatic decreases in juvenile crime and lower recidivism rates among youth.
The Assembly proposal would enact significant reforms to:
By moving these cases under the jurisdiction of family court, the Assembly proposal will allow these youths to benefit from the diversion programs that are currently at work to keep young offenders from progressing to more serious crimes and sentences. In addition, these young men and women will be more likely to remain in contact with their families and loved ones thereby improving their chances for successful rehabilitation and reentry into their communities.
"Raising the age of criminal responsibility is a critical step in our efforts to modernize the criminal justice system," said O'Donnell. "In every other regard, we recognize that the adolescent and teenage mind are not the same as an adult's. Too often, these impressionable young men and women are placed in adult facilities where they suffer social and mental disruption that follows them into adulthood. It is our duty to pursue responsive and appropriate correction reforms that improve, not jeopardize the well-being of all our citizens."
"Our justice system does more damage than good when teenagers are confined alongside older, more serious offenders," said Lupardo. "They are more likely to be removed from their communities, beyond the reach of their families and loved ones during a time when they are most vulnerable to depression and suicidal behaviors. We cannot allow any more families to be dismantled or any more young lives to be lost. This proposal is long overdue and New York's families will be stronger for its adoption."