Lawmakers urge raising age of criminal responsibilty
“OSSINING – A former state judge, lawmakers and advocates gathered Tuesday in the hometown of Sing Sing prison to urge support for raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York State to 18 years old from the current 16.
New York and North Carolina are the only states where 16-year-olds are charged as adults.
“You cannot treat children with the same amount of culpability as you do an adult when they make a mistake,” Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of the state court of appeals, said during a discussion at Village Hall.
“We understand the science of adolescent brain development. It’s different than adults — kids don’t weigh the consequences of what they do in the same way,” Lippman added. “They don’t weigh right and wrong; they act on impulse.”
Lippman said because of the current law, 16- and 17-year-olds can get put at Rikers Island and associate with adults imprisoned there.
State Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, said when children are sent to prison, “we might as well sentence them to a life sentence, because we know the recidivism rates for young people is higher than any other demographic.”
Carlucci said Tuesday’s event brought experts and advocates to Ossining as part of efforts to craft legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18. The idea is to give children rehabilitation rather than incarceration, he said.
“We are wasting so much money, and damaging so many lives by not raising the age,” said state Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx.
Others who were part of Tuesday’s gathering included Catherine Borgia, the Westchester County Legislature majority leader; Vicky Khazzam and Tajae Gaynor, both of Westchester Rockland Mediation Center; and Tony Earl Jr., executive director and founder of MADE Transitional Services.
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