In Albany, Momentum Continues to Grow for #RaisetheAgeNY

On March 7th, more than 250 advocates and young people from across New York State convened in Albany to urge legislators to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old and include it in the New York State budget.

New York and North Carolina remain the only two states charging youth under the age of 18 as adults, despite research and studies showing that raising the age of criminal responsibility improves public safety and leads to better outcomes for youth.

Support for raise the age legislation has garnered significant momentum recently – Governor Cuomo included Raise the Age legislation in his budget, the Assembly passed a bill last month, Senate Democrats and the IDC have both voiced support and Senate Republicans have expressed an openness to legislation.

The day began with a spirited press conference featuring policymakers Senator Jesse Hamilton, Senate Democratic Leader Andea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Governor Cuomo’s counsel Alphonso David. All reaffirmed their commitment to raising the age this year.  Two women shared their personal stories of involvement in the justice system as young teens.

FB LIVE embed link to top of post : 

What’s next: The clock is ticking to pass comprehensive legislation to raise the age. The state budget is due to be finalized on March 31. The Raise the Age NY campaign continues to call on legislators to pass this bill and fund it as part of the budget agreement.  

What you can do:  Join the campaign! Follow #RaisetheAgeNY for updates and ways to take action.

On the 16th of every month, join the Raise the Age NY Call-In Day for Justice. Use our one-click Action Alert to let your elected representatives know you want them to get this done.

Quotes of Note

For social media and other sharing, here are a few of the many powerful voices we heard (and you can hear in the above video):

Senator Jesse Hamilton (IDC):

This is the year that we are going to raise the age. 16- and 17-year-olds shouldn’t be given a life sentence for doing something that is childish. This country is criminalizing our youth for being youthful.”

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins:

“Now that we are looking at the disparate impact that our criminal justice system has had — especially on poor people of color — people have decided that enough is enough.”

“ As a mother of three children, two black males, I can tell you that the encounters and the difficulties are real… You can wind up in front of a judge in an adult court for a childish thing.”

“We can’t just say we are raising the age and not raise the age. We have to make sure that the maximum involvement is in Family Court….where there is the intention of redirecting the child with the help and the support of the families.”

Cortney (Testimonial):

I had no idea that by 17, I would be arrested in my kitchen with my broken-hearted parents standing by and watching. I spent four and a half months incarcerated, and 21 days in solitary confinement. I never thought that would become my life, that I would loose varsity sports, honors classes , my friendships and my future… I was just a kid breaking the law to support my addition.”

“I spent only a handful of time incarcerated compared to most… this is where my story changes. My private attorney was able to make the court agree to give me drug court, send me away to treatment… and my felony record was sealed. As a direct result of them sealing my record, I was able to get a job under a federal contract with the US Department of Defense as a Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator… 9 years later my life is pretty amazing… my outcomes should be the standard and not the exception.”

“Jails and prisons are full of young men of color with similar or lesser crimes like my own but do not have the privilege to have my name, or my face, or my skin tone and that is not okay… we are ALL worth it.”

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D):

“The one issue that matters to me the most… it’s personally embarrassing to me that New York is still one of the two states (not) to do this. For me, as a speaker of color, it truly is hurtful to me that New York and North Carolina are the only ones that still treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.”

“I can’t see me moving forward this session…unless we finally treat 16- and 17-year-olds like the children that they are.”

Rosemary Rivera, Organizing Director in NY for Citizens NY:

“When I was 11 years old I started going into [detention in the criminal justice system] … I learned either I was going to become a victim or I was going to become a victimizer…”

“It took miraculous progressive people in different organization to let me see the systemic issues that we have in NYS… why are still doing this?”

“I am proud of where I am, a statewide organizing director, but what would I have become if [the state] had invested in me…”

Alphonso David, Counsel to Gov. Cuomo:

“At this point we should have raised the age in NY. 48 states in this country in some ways have raised the age… when you look at the science, when you look at the policies it makes sense to raise the age.”

Rabbi Stephanie Kolin, Central Synagogue (New York City)

“ Hearts are moved, hearts are broken, hearts are called. It’s a disgrace that NY is one of just two states where 16-year-olds are automatically treated and charged as adults in our criminal justice system.  We know that it hurts tens of thousands of youth who make a mistake and get caught up in the system.”