The New York state Senate gave final passage Sunday night to a $153.1 billion budget that was nine days late, and part of the compromise was a policy issue that many criminal justice advocates had sought for years—raising the age that New York teens could be charged as adults.
Until recently, New York and North Carolina remained the only two states in the U.S. where all youth are prosecuted as adults when they turn 16 years of age. The age will now be raised to 18 in New York.
According to RaisetheAge.com, the brain science is clear—adolescents are in fact children and the human brain is not fully formed until the age of 25. The site offers these facts in support of raising the age:
• Studies have found that young people transferred to the adult criminal justice system are 34 percent more likely to be re-arrested for violent and other crimes than youth retained in the youth justice system. Around 80 percent of youth released from adult prisons reoffend often going on to commit more serious crimes.
• Studies show that youth in adult prisons are twice as likely to report being beaten by staff, and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon, than children placed in youth facilities.
• Youth in adult prisons face the highest risk of sexual assault of all inmate populations.
• Youth in adult jails and prisons do not have access to the same age-appropriate rehabilitative services that are available in juvenile facilities.
• Solitary confinement severely damages the mental health, physical health, and development of youth, sometimes irreparably. While some progress has been made in limiting the use of solitary confinement for children, young people continue to be exposed to solitary confinement and prolonged isolation.
• Youth are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult facility than in a juvenile facility.
After the tragic suicide of Kalief Browder, who was locked up as a 17-year-old in New York’s notorious jail, Rikers Island, many rallied around the #RaiseTheAge cause. Browder was the subject of a recent six-part docuseries produced by rapper Jay Z.
“The long-overdue agreement to raise the age in New York is an important step forward in creating a justice system that truly promotes hope, opportunity and second chances,” says Glenn E. Martin, President and Founder of JustLeadershipUSA to NewsOne. “The lives of children—primarily poor children of color—have been severely damaged by decades of being treated as adults and locked up in adult jails and prisons. JustleadershipUSA looks forward to the removal of children from these facilities, especially Rikers Island, and will continue to advocate for the fair and humane treatment of all children regardless of their charges.”
Yet, though most criminal justice advocates conceded victory with the #RaiseTheAge provision, one, Carmen Perez, founder of the Justice League NYC, wrote in a Medium post that the fight for children of color is far from over in New York.
“[New York State Senators] are the reason that New York State is about to pass a budget that will continue to funnel black and brown youth through the “school-to-prison pipeline,” wrote Perez. “At the beginning of the pipeline, this budget will continue under-funding public schools in order to give charter schools the advantage. At the other end, New York will likely “Raise the Age” while still charging black and brown youth with lengthy adult sentences and denying the chance at rehabilitation through the sealing of juvenile records.”