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Raise the Age

New York is one of only two states in the country, in company with North Carolina, that prosecutes all 16-17-year-olds charged with a crime in the adult criminal justice system, regardless of the severity of their alleged crime. Additionally, New York treats 13, 14, and 15-year-olds accused of committing certain serious crimes as “juvenile offenders” (J.O.s).  J.O.s are prosecuted as adults unless their cases are transferred to Family Court.

In NYS, 16 and 17-year-olds detained or incarcerated via a criminal court order are confined in adult prisons and jails (J.O.s are confined in youth facilities until at least 18).

Each year, over 45,000 16- and 17-year-olds are arrested as adults in New York State. Because they are defined by the law as adults, these youth can be questioned by police without parental notification and confined alongside adults in prisons and jails.

Young people housed in adult prisons are in grave danger. They are 50% more likely to face attack from another prisoner, twice as likely as adults to be assaulted by prison staff, and five times more likely to be sexually abused or raped than their counterparts in youth centers.  Children in adult jails are also 36 times more likely to commit suicide than those in youth facilities.

Research demonstrates that prosecuting and sentencing children as adults not only presents threats to children’s safety and wellbeing, but also decreases public safety. Young people who are charged as adults have been shown to be more likely to commit future acts of violence and return to prison at much higher rates than youth who were prosecuted as youth.

Youth who are convicted with adult crimes may have to carry that mark with them for the rest of their lives, making it difficult for them to get on the right path and become productive and healthy adults. The aftermath of a lifelong criminal record often includes the permanent denial of educational loans; barriers to employment, housing, and benefits; potential deportation; and the loss of housing for both themselves and their families.

This issue impacts some communities much harder than others. Because they are more likely to be targeted by the police and are disproportionately represented at virtually every point in the justice system, young people of color are more likely than white children to bear the serious and lasting consequences of being charged and incarcerated as adults.

 

Get the facts

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