Heastie Touts Criminal Justice Measures In Budget
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Friday touted the provisions in the state budget that address criminal justice reforms, which range from raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 and providing funds for the public defense of indigents.
Heastie had made the push for the raise the age campaign a key policy goal in the budget negotiations. The indigent legal services funding, which provided for a six-year plan aimed at boosting publicly provided legal defense, had also been backed by a coalition of suburban and upstate lawmakers.
“Ensuring everyone has access to adequate legal representation, regardless of their economic standing, is our moral responsibility,” Heastie said. “Protecting our children from a criminal justice system designed for adults is our moral obligation. I’m thankful to Assemblymembers Joe Lentol and Pat Fahy for their long standing commitment to these issues.”
Not everyone got what they wanted on either issue. The raise the age agreement was the product of multiple years of contentious negotiations with Senate Republicans, ultimately coming down to a discussion over the definition of a violent crime.
County governments had sought the indigent legal services funding as a way to satisfy a lawsuit over state support for public legal defense. A plan is being developed by the Office of Indigent Legal Services that is aimed at providing counsel at arraignment, establishing caseload standards and providing attorneys with necessary training. All told, by 2023, funding will reach $250 million a year.