Advocates Meet with Legislators in Albany on Raise the Age Funding
On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, more than two dozen youth justice advocates from across the state converged in Albany to talk with legislators about how the proposed state budget would affect the implementation of the new Raise the Age law.
Last April, after years of debate, New York passed its historic Raise the Age law, raising the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18. The law phases in over two years. That means that in October 2018, 16-year-olds will no longer automatically be charged as adults. In October 2019, the law will apply to 17-year-olds.
Until this law, New York automatically charged all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, for any offense. (We were one of only two states to do this; last year the other state, North Carolina, also raised the age.)
Advocates, researchers, youth development experts, law enforcement and many others have cheered this long-awaited victory. But the “devil is in the details,” as the saying goes, and the Raise the Age New York Campaign is watching implementation closely.
“It is really important we keep the pressure on to fully fund New York’s Raise the Age legislation for all counties and New York City, because needs and resources are different all over the state,” said Allison Lake, Deputy Director of the Westchester Children’s Association, a lead member of the Raise the Age New York campaign. “Many might feel the box is checked and the legislation is done, but now the hard work begins.”
Among the first hurdles the law faces: funding. The campaign is calling on the legislature to allocate the necessary resources to ensure that implementation is responsible and successful.
Governor Cuomo’s budget allots $100 million for expense side services and $50 million for capital needs. The Raise the Age New York campaign has acknowledged the Governor’s critical investments in raise the age, but has expressed concern that other proposed Executive Budgetary actions could undermine the ability of jurisdictions around the state to implement the new law effectively. (Learn more.)
During the Feb. 27 Advocacy Day, a wide array of stakeholders including foster care providers, children’s advocates, legal services and grassroots groups met with lawmakers to address the need for more funding. Among those present were Raise the Age NY coalition members Citizens’ Committee Committee for Children, the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, Families Together in New York State, Children’s Defense Fund NY, Westchester Children’s Association, Center for Community Alternatives, Fund for Modern Courts, Leake and Watts, Sheltering Arms, and Legal Aid Society.
“Raise the age was a critical step in the right direction for youth in New York,” said Elizabeth Powers, Director of Youth Justice with the Children’s Defense Fund of New York. “To be successful, funding must be secured along the entire justice continuum for all counties, including New York City.”
The campaign is calling on legislators to fully fund Raise the Age in a way that does not inhibit critical funding for related supports. For example: Marissa Saunders, Program Director with the Center for Community Alternatives in Syracuse, expressed the need for funding to strengthen Alternatives to Incarceration Program (ATI).
“Funding ATIs allows more opportunities for young people to return to their communities with support and resources,” Saunders said.
Others urged legislators to ensure that all related initiatives vital to the functioning of Raise the Age maintain necessary funding, such as the Close to Home initiative in New York City.
16-year-old Qiyuan Shengni, a CCC YouthAction program participant, was glad to be in Albany meeting with elected officials. “I learned how necessary advocating on behalf of youth and children is. For those of us who are under 18, we cannot vote and thus have less power to influence our representatives. But we can still advocate for ourselves and make a difference, especially if we are the ones being most impacted by this budget.'”
We invite all New York state residents to join us in asking for adequate funding for programs and services that work to rehabilitate young people and keep our communities safer. To stay informed and get involved, follow #RaisetheAgeNY and @RaisetheAgeNY on social media, and take two minutes to use our easy action alert: bit.ly/fundRTANY