‘Raise the age’ may rise this session

“As the state budget deadline draws near, the stars are aligning to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18.

Sen. Jeff Klein, leader of the increasingly influential Independent Democratic Conference, told The Point that this is one of the IDC’s top priorities. Also, he said, it’s just a first step toward a statewide change in how New York handles youthful offenders, and Suffolk County is his model.

Klein said he met with state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho about Suffolk County’s youth court in Central Islip, which offers many teenagers rehabilitative treatment instead of incarceration. The IDC says this not only saves money, but helps young people turn their lives around.

New York is one of just two states that automatically prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults for serious crimes. “I want their cases heard in Family Court,” Klein said, with judges trained in social services and intervention treatment.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan blocked a “raise the age” measure last year. However, this year, the Senate held a four-hour hearing on the issue — a major breakthrough. And the Assembly has passed a “raise the age” bill this session for the first time in many years.

“Senator Flanagan has been very open about talking about this issue,” Klein said. “We’re in a good place.”

Anne Michaud”

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