Law enforcement are backing ‘raise the age’ initiative

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From Legislative Gazette:

The fight to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York and protect youth from ruining their lives with one mistake continues as support from advocates for the governor’s proposal grows stronger.

“It’s not right. It’s not fair. We must raise the age,” said Dennis R. Hawkins, executive director of the Fund for Modern Courts.

Under the governor’s proposal, the age of automatic adult criminal responsibility would rise from 16 to 17 in 2017, and then from 17 to 18 in 2018, relieving New York as one of only two states who have yet to raise the age.

“We don’t allow 16- and 17-year-olds to swim in hotel pools, or smoke cigarettes, or drink alcohol, or be drafted,” said Soffiyah Elijah, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, who is against treating 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in criminal justice when they are not considered adults under other restrictions.

Elijah recalled a visit to Southport Correctional Facility where she encountered a 26-year-old man in solitary confinement, suffering from a mental illness, who has been incarcerated for 10 years, 8 of which was spent in solitary confinement.

Local jails currently house 800 inmates under the age of 18. In prison, minors are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted and 8 times more likely to commit suicide, according to Elijah. Eighty-two percent of minors in prison are of color.

According to Madison County Sheriff Alan Riley, children are targeted by adults in prison and although prison staff tries to separate children from adults they are unable to separate them completely.

“You’re on your own…” notes Joe Mancini, director of Probation in Schenectady County, referring to youth who are incarcerated.

Read more of Matthew D’Onofrio’s article here.