Clergy Push Cuomo, Flanagan, Klein and Heastie to Pass “Raise the Age” Legislation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Contact: Kenneth Londono, firstname.lastname@example.org, 646-335-0420
Clergy Push Cuomo, Flanagan, Klein and Heastie to Pass “Raise the Age” Legislation
Fact That New York is Only One of Two States Charging All 16 Year-Olds as Adults an “Outrage”
Passing Common-Sense Criminal Justice Reform a “Moral Imperative”
Albany, NY—Dozens of religious leaders converged on Albany today to press the case for Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan, Assembly Speaker Heastie and Senate IDC Leader Klein to pass legislation that would raise the age at which youth are charged as adults in New York. Last year, 249 members of the clergy from around the state supported “raise the age” legislation and this year they vowed to continue speaking out on the issue. They pointed to statistics showing that “Raise the Age” would reduce the likelihood of youth being re-arrested and make communities safer.
Last year, legislation was proposed by Governor Cuomo but legislators failed to pass a bill. Raising the age would reform New York’s juvenile justice system to create better outcomes for youth and public safety. New York is one of two states, the other North Carolina, which still prosecutes 16 and 17-year olds as adults.
“The health of our democracy is measured by how we treat young people,” said The Reverend Peter Cook, Executive Director, New York State Council of Churches. “It’s wrong that in New York State we automatically prosecute 16 and 17 year olds as adults. We know that rehabilitation works better when we use alternative approaches which include family courts and restorative justice. The adult system is simply not designed to do the restorative work required for young people, who have made a mistake or lost their way, to get on a different path.”
“Reforming juvenile justice policy in New York is a profound moral issue. Adolescents are in fact children. Our religious affirmation of individual worth and dignity requires us to recognize that the cognitive skills of adolescents are developing, adolescent behavior is often impulsive, and as children, they lack the ability to focus on the consequences of their behavior. At this stage in their lives, they can be rehabilitated. Treating them as adults is extremely harmful. This cruel, dysfunctional practice has to stop,” said Robb Smith, Executive Director, Interfaith Impact of NYS.
“Our elected officials spend a lot of time arguing with each other over their own ethics and values, meanwhile there are youth in our state, children, who are subject to the adult criminal justice system. This same system which has continually revealed itself to be abusive, racist, and harmful, especially to our youth. We need leaders who will do the right thing, raise the age of criminal accountability, and end this immoral practice now,” said Rev. Valerie Faust, Living Word Tabernacle, Albany.
“’Raise the Age’ is legislation that would expand both the protection of our society and of our children,” said Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein, Rabbi Emeritus of Central Synagogue. “It is good for us all.”
“I have a 16 year old son. Understandably, he can’t watch R rated movies or drive in New York City without an adult accompanying him. Yet outrageously–it is legal in New York for him to get arrested without parental notification and processed through the adult criminal justice system,” said Rabbi Angela W. Buchdahl. “New York is one of only two states in America that immorally tries and jails these children as adults. Studies have shown charging youth as juveniles improves outcomes and reduce recidivism. This is the year to ‘Raise the Age.’”
“It is a continuing embarrassment and moral shame that New York would maintain such outdated and unjust policies that prosecute and incarcerate youth with adults. Every year that goes by means more youth being abused and harmed by this broken system. It is long past time for our Governor and Legislature to stop dragging their feet on this, do the right thing, and raise the age now,” said Rev. Kathy Donley, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Albany.
“Too many youth are being swept up into the adult criminal justice system and getting trapped in a cycle of poverty and crime. The safety of our communities and the well-being of our children, hurt by our criminal justice system, depend upon a comprehensive Raise the Age proposal that treats children in an age-appropriate manner, reducing recidivism, improving public safety and protecting our communities,” said Rev. Erwin Lee Trollinger, Jr., Calvary Baptist Church, White Plains.
“As Jews, we believe in the importance of repentance, forgiveness and treating all members of society with dignity and respect,” said Rabbi Ariel Naveh of Bend the Arc New York. “We strongly support raising the age of criminal responsibility in a comprehensive manner that meets the rehabilitative needs of all children in New York State, making our communities safer. It’s time for more just and humane treatment of our young people so that they can become contributing members of our communities and not second-class citizens.”
“The faith community has been involved in many civil rights struggles throughout history, this issue is no different. New York is considered a progressive state, but now it is only one of two states – the other is North Carolina –where youth, as young as 16, automatically end up in adult courts, jails and prisons. New York is failing these children. Today, we humbly ask New York’s leaders to raise the age at which children are automatically charged as adults,” said Pastor Jim O’Hanlon, Pastor, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Rye Brook, NY.
“New York State should “raise the age” for moral, fiscal, and evidence-based reasons. We should stop automatically processing, prosecuting, and incarcerating 16 and 17 year olds as adults because they are not adults. Scientific studies reveal the great differences in decision-making ability between teens and older people, for example. Other states have employed many ways of addressing the needs of these youth, thereby lowering costs, crime and recidivism. New York should do this, as well. I expect our state to be in the vanguard, and have long been dismayed that we are behind others on this critical issue,” said Rev. Bonnie Shoultz, Dharma Teacher, Zen Center of Syracuse.
“It is tragic that New York is one of only two states that imprison 16 and 17 year old children. In so violent a society, they lack models for dealing with anger and conflict. By raising the age, our money could be more wisely invested in ways that support growth and maturity,” said M. Gratia L’Esperance, Sisters of Mercy, Rochester.
“Punishing children in the same way we punish adults is a moral outrage. New York should be a progressive leader on these issues but instead has lagged behind 48 other states for years. Raising the age is long overdue. Every day that our elected officials delay this is another day that children are harmed and families are torn apart. We demand that they raise the age this year to protect our children and our communities,” said Rev. JoAnne Scott, Co-Pastor, Word of Life Ministries, Niagara Falls and President, Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope (NOAH).
“Grounded in Jewish teachings about compassion, mercy, redemption and justice, the Reform Jewish Movement has long expressed concern about the juvenile justice system and called for humane treatment of juvenile offenders. It has addressed and spoken out on ‘the serious moral and social issues which develop out of the special legal status of juveniles’ with a particular eye toward the ‘constitutional rights and civil liberties of juveniles’ and alternatives to incarceration.
Raising the Age is a necessary step toward ensuring a fairer juvenile/criminal justice system in New York,” said Barbara Zaron, representing Reform Jewish Voice of New York State (RJV).
About the Raise the Age NY campaign:
Raise the Age NY is a public awareness campaign that includes national and local advocates, youth, parents, law enforcement and legal representative groups, faith leaders, and unions that have come together to increase public awareness of the need to implement a comprehensive approach to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York State so that the legal process responds to all children as children and provides services and placement options that better meet the rehabilitative needs of all children and youth.
New York is one of only two states in the country (the other is North Carolina) that have failed to recognize what research and science have confirmed – adolescents are children, and prosecuting and placing them in the adult criminal justice system doesn’t work for them and doesn’t work for public safety.
Children who are prosecuted as adults are more likely to continue committing crimes in the future. Children who are treated as children are more likely to stay out of jail, and out of the justice system:
- Studies have found that young people prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system are 34% more likely to be re-arrested for violent or other crime than youth retained in the youth justice system.
- A study comparing youth prosecuted in New York’s adult courts to young people prosecuted for the same felonies in New Jersey’s juvenile courts found that the New York youth were more likely to recidivate. Not only were New York youth 100% more likely to rearrested for a violent crime, they also had higher re-incarceration rates and shorter time periods to re-arrest than their New Jersey peers.
- In 2013, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission found that when the state began prosecuting 17-year-olds as juveniles, juvenile crime continued to decline. Moreover, between 2010 when the law changed, until 2013, the state experienced a 14% decrease in violent crime. Contrary to what opponents had predicted, including 17-year-olds did not overload the juvenile justice system, nor did it increase juvenile offenses.
Research into brain development underscores that adolescents are in fact children and that the human brain is not fully formed until the age of 25:
- As the cognitive skills of adolescents are developing, adolescents’ behavior is often impulsive and they lack the ability to focus on the consequences of their behavior.
- Because the adolescent brain is still developing, the character, personality traits and behavior of adolescents are highly receptive to change; adolescents respond well to interventions, learn to make responsible choices, and are likely to grow out of negative or delinquent behavior.
- Raise the Age NY is a campaign that supports raising the age of criminal responsibility for all children in New York to improve outcomes for children and public safety.
For more information about the Raise the Age campaign, visit www.raisetheageny.com.
Lead group members:
Center for Community Alternatives
Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York
Correctional Association of New York
Families Together in NYS
Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies
Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy
The Children’s Agenda
The Children’s Defense Fund – New York
The Fund for Modern Courts
Westchester Children’s Association
Additional supporters to date:
1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
Alternatives for Battered Women
American Friends Service Committee (NY)
Arab American Association of NY
Association for Community Living, Inc.
Association of NYS Youth Bureaus
Association to Benefit Children
Bronx Christian Fellowship Church
Bronx Clergy Roundtable
Brooklyn Community Services
Brooklyn Defender Services
Campaign to End the New Jim Crow
Casa Rochester/Monroe County, Inc.
Center for Children’s Initiatives
Center for Popular Democracy
Child Welfare Organizing Project
Citizens Action of New York
City of Glen Cove Youth Bureau
Coalition for Asian American Children and Families
Coalition for Education Justice
Coalition for Hispanic Children and Families
Coalition for the Homeless
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Commission on the Public’s Health System
Communities United for Police Reform
Community Connections for Youth
Community Service Society
Community Voices for Youth and Families
Dignity in Schools Campaign – New York
Equal Justice Initiative
Faith in New York
Families On The Move of NYC, Inc.
First Corinthian Baptist Church
Good Shepherd Services
Harlem Children’s Zone
Human Services Council
Incarcerated Nation Corp.
Jewish Child Care Association
Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club
Latino Justice PRLDEF
Lawyers for Children
Leake &Watts Services, Inc.
Legal Action Center
Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
Long Island Progressive Coalition
Lutheran Family Health Centers
Make the Road New York
Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.
MFY Legal Services, Inc.
Montefiore School Health Program
National Association of Social Workers – New York State
National Economic and Social Rights Initiative
Neighborhood Family Services Coalition
New York American Academy of Pediatrics, District II
New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers, Inc.
New York Center for Juvenile Justice
New York Civil Liberties Union
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
New York Society for Ethical Culture
New York State Coalition for Children’s Mental Health
New York State Coalition for School-Based Health Centers
New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare
New York State Council of Churches
New York Theological Seminary
NYC Jails Action Coalition
Partnership for After School Education (PASE)
Partnership for the Public Good
Partners in Restorative Initiatives
Save the Kids
SCO Family of Services
Staten Island Council on Child Abuse and Neglect
S.T.R.O.N.G. Youth Inc.
The Black Institute
The Brotherhood/Sister Sol
The Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES)
The Children’s Aid Society
The Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies, Inc.
The Fortune Society
The Legal Aid Society
The National Alliance for Mental Illness-New York State
The New York Foundling
The New York State Dispute Resolution Association
The Osborne Association
The Partnership For Public Good
The Resolution Plan
Tremont United Methodist Church
United Neighborhood Houses
Unique People Services
Uniting Disabled Individuals, Inc
Urban Health Plan, Inc.
Urban Justice Center
Urban Youth Collaborative
Women’s City Club of New York
Pastor Mike Walrond
William F. Ryan Community Health Network