On April 10, 2017, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the “Raise the Age” legislation that extends the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years of age. By October 2019, New York will no longer automatically prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.
The State Assembly approved the bill by 81-40 votes, and it will move all cases involving 16- and 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanor and nonviolent felony cases to Family Court. Until this important change in the law, New York was one of two states (the other being North Carolina) to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Nearly 28,000 16-and 17-year-olds are arrested as adults each year in New York State.
The CA is a lead member of Raise the Age NY, a campaign that strenuoisly supported raising the age of criminal responsibility for all children in New York to improve outcomes for children and public safety. We will be working with allies to examine and analyze the new law and its impact, and will carry on our fight to ensure that the criminal legal system treats children as children. You can get specific details on the new Raise the Age law at http://raisetheageny.com/get-the-facts.
Children in adult jails and prisons face very high rates of sexual assault and rape, physical assaults, attacks with weapons, and can, in some facilities, be held in solitary confinement. Children in adult jails are 36 percent more likely to commit suicide than children in youth detention facilities.
Prosecuting kids as adults can increase crime, including violent crime. A 2007 study comparing youth charged in New York’s adult courts with youth charged with identical crimes in New Jersey’s juvenile courts found New York youth were 100% more likely to re-offend with a violent offense and 26% more likely to be re-incarcerated. When Connecticut moved the majority of the cases of 16- and 17-year-olds out of adult court, arrests plummeted, including for violent crime.
Our 2016 online video campaign was aimed at pressuring lawmakers to raise the age of criminal responsibility. The release of the videos, which range from 30 to 90 seconds in length, was timed to coincide with the intense budget discussions that were taking place in Albany as the 2016 deadline approached. Each video ended with a call to action asking New Yorkers to call the Governor, Flanagan and Heastie and urging them to keep the “raise the age” bill in the budget.
Among those featured in the videos are Akeem Browder, the brother of Kalief Browder, who, after being arrested as an adult at 16, was held at Rikers Island for three years, most of that time in solitary confinement, and subjected to abuse and starvation. Kalief attempted suicide several times while being held. He was never charged with a crime and was released in 2013. Kalief committed suicide in 2015. Among several others appearing in the videos supporting raising the age are Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, in 2005 the first woman elected District Attorney in the history of Long Island and sworn in to Congress earlier this year, and Assemblyman Mike Blake of the Bronx.
View the first of the videos here. All of the videos are on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Facing Time: Facing Future, a project of the Correctional Association of New York, is comprised of portraits, videos, and stories highlighting the experiences of those most directly impacted by New York’s practice of prosecuting children as adults.
The videos, portraits, and accompanying booklet in the Facing Time: Facing Future multimedia project were produced by the Correctional Association of New York in collaboration with the wonderful creative team of Emily Whitfield, Marshall Reese (videographer), and Harry Zernike (photographer and book designer). We would like to thank the Public Welfare Foundation for their support for Facing Time: Facing Future, and the Tow Foundation for their continuing commitment to this issue.