Bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility passes Assembly


“A bill that would change the way the juvenile justice system in New York works passed through the Assembly Tuesday, but it’ll need to be approved by the Senate.

Lawmakers approved a bill that would raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18-years-old.

Currently, if a 16 or 17-year-old commits a crime, they’d be charged as an adult. New York is one of two states still charging teens as adults.

Elaine Spaull sits on the executive committee working to Raise the Age in the state. She says this is long overdue.

“New York State is so progressive, so above the curve in so many ways when it comes to justice programs but we’re lagging behind here,” Spaull said.

Spaull says youth advocates have been working for decades to raise the age. She says charging a teen as an adult has a negative effect on our state and these kids deserve a second chance.

“We’re seeing an increase in the number of young women incarcerated as well, but not nearly the numbers as our young men of color,” Spaull said.

According to the most recent state data, 843 16 and 17-year-olds committed crimes in Monroe County, 603 of them were misdemeanors and another 103 non-violent felonies. She says it’s those kids that shouldn’t face adult punishments.

“We are not sending kids to rec centers and playgrounds who have committed violent crimes, that’s not the goal,” Spaull said.

The Raise the Age bill passed through Assembly for the second year in a row. Spaull says now it’s on to the hard part.

“From faith based to agencies…to law enforcement…everyone is saying it’s time and now we need to convince our Senators,” Spaull said.

Senator Rich Funke sent us this statement about raising the age: “I don’t oppose the idea in principle, but the devil will be in the details,” Funke said.

He went on to say, “This would fundamentally restructure our criminal justice system, yet right now we have more questions than answers. What additional burdens will this place on Family Court dockets? How will the juvenile detention facilities needed to house these youth offenders be built or expanded? Who will cover the cost – not just up-front infrastructure investments, but also long-term operating expenses? Will this be another state mandate on local governments that drives-up spending and property taxes?”

Senator Joe Robach also sent us his take on the proposal, “I have been supportive of efforts to treat youthful offenders of nonviolent crimes in a different manner then adults,” Robach wrote.

“However, I believe it’s important that the punishment fits the crime for violent offenses such as sexual assault, personal injury and murder at any age,” Senator Robach said.

Both Senators said they’d have to take a closer look at the bill and the cost of it all before making a vote.

The Governor has already written a proposal to raise the age into his budget this year. His plan would start the change in 2020.”

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