YOUTHS SHOULD BE TRIED AS YOUTHS: REFORMS IN NY JUVENILE SYSTEM
Currently in the State of New York, when 16 and 17-year-olds are arrested they are automatically charged as adults; while in other states, the judge can decide whether the minor should be tried as a juvenile or as an adult. It is high time that NY legislation updates this 200-year-old law and brings reform to its juvenile criminal justice system.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s juvenile legal system reform through the “Raise-The-Age” bill recommends the following:
- Raise the age of adult criminal responsibility in New York to 18
- Prohibit the confinement of minors under 21 in adult jails and prisons
- Prevent minors with first-time misdemeanor offenses or probation violations from being held in detention
- Create a separate branch of adult courts for teenagers charged with violent felonies
What this means is that 16 and 17-year old offenders will be tried as juveniles and no longer as adults. Juveniles will be held in youth detention facilities with rehabilitation programs instead of being held in jails with hardened adult criminals. Prison studies show that teens in adult prisons are thirty-six times more likely to commit suicide. The teens are also more likely to become victims of abuse by adult inmates. In NY, there were 800 inmates in local jails and state prisons under the age of 18 as of January 2016.
“By housing 16 and 17-year-olds in an age-appropriate correctional facility, we can offer them a better chance at turning their lives around and becoming productive members of society,” said Governor Cuomo.
To meet this goal, the Hudson Correctional Facility in Columbia County, which is currently a medium security general confinement facility, will be transformed to appropriately serve juvenile offenders by August of 2016.
However, certain juveniles will still be tried as adults, especially if the teen was a principal perpetrator or used a weapon.
It will be interesting to follow which direction the state Senate debates on the Raise The Age legislation will turn out.
Read more at