‘Raise the Age’ advocates plan ‘sleep-in’

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From Times Union:

Albany

With the legislative session winding down, advocates for raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York won’t rest — though they might doze off at times.

Supporters of legislation that would change the age from 16 to 18 say they will remain at the State Capitol until the end of the legislative session on June 16 as part of an extended “sleep-in.” They planned to spend part of Monday night in the public spaces on the Empire State Plaza concourse before moving outside.

Almost 250 clergy also signed a letter addressed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie calling on them to raise the age. Senate Republicans remain the impediment to that effort.

“As faith leaders from many backgrounds, traditions and beliefs, we write to you united by our great concern for the future of children in our communities,” the letter says. “Too many are being swept up into the adult criminal justice system and getting trapped in a cycle of poverty and crime.”

The letter goes on to say that young people exposed to adult facilities are more likely to be physically and sexually abused. It also calls for more age-appropriate interventions based on rehabilitation instead of punishment.

“By the time they get out (they’re) my age,” Ivana McCray said at an event for Raise the Age NY at the Capitol on Monday. “So they already have that set mentality at 23, 24, 25. They’re coming out thinking they’re big and bad and can do anything because of what they were taught in the jail system.”

Although it was proposed three years ago, the Legislature has yet to pass legislation making the change. Cuomo highlighted the Raise the Age campaign in his 2016 agenda and has taken unilateral action to move juvenile convicts out of adult facilities, but the bill remains in the Codes Committee of both the Senate and the Assembly.

“We’re going to continue to push,” said Beth Powers, director of youth justice at the Children’s Defense Fund.

New York and North Carolina are the only states where 16- and 17-year-olds are automatically tried as adults.

A report from the National Campaign to Reform State Juvenile Justice Systems found that youth under age 18 who are prosecuted as adults are 34 percent more likely to be re-arrested than those in the youth system.