New York just moved one very important step closer to common sense criminal justice reforms


“SHAUN KING: It’s hard to belieminorsve, but New York is only one of two states in the nation that automatically charges all 16-year-olds as adults for all crimes. The other state, North Carolina, makes sense. They’ve become almost like the Mississippi of our generation, but New York? That 48 other states have figured this out before we have is both preposterous and embarrassing.

Thankfully, the State of New York just moved one very essential step closer to raising the age of adult criminal responsibility for crimes from 16 to 18 — so that young teens who are charged with a crime will finally be treated like the young people that they are.

On Tuesday, the New York State Assembly voted and approved Assembly Bill 4876, also known as the “Raise the Age” bill. It’s already been wholeheartedly endorsed by Gov. Cuomo, who has committed to signing it into law the moment it crosses his desk and committed $110 million in the state budget to implement the reform. That’s the good news. Two out of three hurdles have been crossed. The state Assembly passed it, the Governor supports it, but now the state Senate must approve the bill.

That would seem easy, since Democrats actually control the state Senate by a slim margin, but a small group of Democrats are currently siding with Republicans and giving Republicans control of the Senate. Yeah, really.

But here’s the thing — this is not a partisan bill. This is not a Democratic or Republican reform. This bill that passed is not radical. For activists who’ve fought for this reform, it doesn’t go far enough. Raising the starting age of criminal prosecution, with exceptions for the most serious violent felonies, is a common sense reform that will put New York in line with the rest of the country.

At a time where it seems like Democrats and Republicans pretty much can’t agree on anything at all, this is not the type of bill that politicians need to play games with. The lives and futures of kids throughout the state are at stake and the implementation of this bill will begin as soon as it is passed and becomes law.

Listen, I understand that politics is all about negotiating and deal-making, but this bill is about the most basic civil and human rights of New York’s teenagers. That a 16-year-old kid who steals a candy bar or spray paints an abandoned building is automatically charged, tried, and sentenced as an adult in New York is beyond comprehension. They can’t legally vote. They can’t fight in the military. But somehow our state has determined that our teenagers can and should pay an adult price for every single mistake they make while having virtually none of the rights as adults that we all enjoy. Again, this is just preposterous.

A 16-year-old is not an adult. My oldest daughter, who is a junior in high school, is now 17-years-old. She is not an adult. Beyond the fact that she cannot legally vote, serve in the military, get a credit card or sign a contract on her own, she’s just not mature enough yet to be on her own. We’re just now getting to the point where we’re giving her a few adult responsibilities. She’s not a baby, but she’s also not a woman. She’s simply not an adult.

Here’s the thing — South Carolina passed this law with unanimous support in their legislature. Their Republican Governor, Nikki Haley, signed it into law last year. Other conservative southern states did the same thing. So what in the hell is taking New York so long to make this reform happen? It’s overdue. Raising the age has widespread support locally and with every day this bill is not law, teenagers throughout our state languish in adult jails.

In addition to voting to raise the age, “the Assembly has introduced Assembly Bill 2480, which would alter the current practices in which defendants ages 16 through 18 are considered for Youthful Offender status. This would ensure that a young person does not acquire a criminal record and a label that would otherwise stay with them throughout their life. If we want them to be productive members of our communities, we must remove these needless roadblocks,” said State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

He continued, “the Assembly also introduced Assembly Bill 1907, which would prohibit the placement of inmates under the age of 18 in solitary confinement.”

It’s time for the state Senate to step up. That it has taken people fighting and marching and protesting for years to get us to this point is perplexing. New York is better than this. Let’s get this done and move on to other meaningful reforms that our state needs to address.”

Original Link (NY Daily News):