CA Applauds Commitment to Raise the Age in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, Laments No Mention of Racism, Violence, and Abuse in NYS Prisons

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CA Applauds Commitment to Raise the Age in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, Laments No Mention of Racism, Violence, and Abuse in NYS Prisons

January 9, 2017 (New York, NY): The Correctional Association of New York roundly applauds the continued commitment of Governor Andrew Cuomo to raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York, ending the prosecution and incarceration of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. It is now up to the members of both parties in the NYS Legislature to do their duty to make this a reality. In spite of the Governor’s assertion that the “nation looks to NY to find a way up,” we actually fall behind 48 other states, along with North Carolina, by continuing to treat children as adults in the criminal legal system. New York must Raise the Age of criminal responsibility this legislative session.

The Governor rightly characterized our jails and prisons as having become a de facto mental health system for many. There is a long-standing dearth of services and support systems for people with mental health issues, and the large number of them in our prisons is evidence of the state’s failure to adequately address those needs. However, the pervasive – and seemingly unabated – culture of racism, violence, and abuse, and the torturous use of solitary confinement to cruelly discipline, control, and punish, while widely reported by the CA and the mainstream media, was conspicuously absent from the address.

These conditions must be acknowledged as reality and specific measures must be taken to bring them to an end. The New York State Legislature must pass the HALT bill and enact humane alternatives to solitary confinement. New York must close Attica prison, the very embodiment of violence and abuse, and of all that is irreparably broken in our prisons. And it must pass the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, allowing judges discretion when sentencing those convicted of defending themselves against their domestic abusers.

The Governor, in his address, said that in the judicial system the scales of justice are more often than not tipped in favor of resources and race, and he re-stated his commitment to righting those scales. This can only occur if our elected officials actively and with clear determination support and share this vision by enacting laws that will make it a reality.