Legislator wants state to ‘raise the age’

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From LI Herald :

Flanked by fellow Democratic lawmakers and representatives of Long Island nonprofit groups on Monday, Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran, of Baldwin, called on the State Legislature to pass a measure that would “raise the age” of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18.

New York is one of only two states in which 16- and 17-year-olds are prosecuted as adults for non-violent offenses and housed with adults in jails and prisons. The other is North Carolina.

Treating minors as adults, experts say, does nothing to rehabilitate them. Often, they repeat their offenses and turn more violent.

“Public safety can actually be enhanced” by raising the age, Curran said at a news conference at the County Legislature building in Mineola. Curran represents the 5th Legislative District, which takes in Baldwin, Freeport, South Hempstead and parts of Merrick and Oceanside.

In 40 states, those younger than 18 are charged as juveniles, and in eight states, the age of responsibility is 17.

In December, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order requiring that 16- and 17-year-olds be separated from adults at state facilities. Curran called the measure “an excellent first step” toward reform, but added that it does not go far enough.

Bills were introduced in the State Legislature in 2013 that would have raised the age, had they passed, but they never made it out of committee. In his 2014 State of the State address, Cuomo asked lawmakers to increase the age of responsibility for non-violent offenses to 18. Last April, he empaneled a commission of legal, criminal-justice and social-service professionals to examine ways not only to raise the age, but also to reform the criminal-justice system.

The governor outlined a budget proposal to raise the age in January 2015. The Legislature, however, has yet to pass a bill.

Lisa Tyson, of Bellmore, executive director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, stood with Curran at Monday’s news conference. “Studies show that raising the age reduces the likelihood that youth who get into trouble will re-offend,” Tyson said. “The governor did the right thing by including this in his budget, and we urge the Legislature to pass [a bill] as soon as possible.”

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