Raise the Age Urges NYC Council Members to Prioritize Age-Appropriate Staff at Youth Facilities
April 26th, 2018 – This month marks one year since the passage of the new ‘raise the age’ law, which ends the New York State practice of automatically charging all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the justice system. As part of this law, New York must remove all young people under the age of 18 from Rikers Island by October 2108.
On April 18th, members of the Raise the Age NY campaign convened at the steps of City Hall for a press conference to urge lawmakers to implement raise the age the way they say the law was intended, and that will benefit youth and communities. The conference took place just before a scheduled joint oversight hearing held by the City Council’s Committee on Juvenile Justice and Committee on Justice to discuss the implementation of the law.
The press conference was sparked by a recent proposal by the NYC Mayor to transfer Department of Corrections staff from Rikers into youth facilities that has received criticism from public defenders, service providers and formerly incarcerated young people. Additionally, the state budget failed to include funding for Close to Home, a program that despite its proven track record of achieving positive outcomes for youth and their families. This has raised concerns about how the state will absorb new caseloads intended to be funneled to Alternatives to Incarceration programs.
In order to “treat children as children” in the eyes of the law, instead of as adults, the campaign advocates argue that city legislators must prioritize the following:
- The city must remove all 16- and 17-year-olds from Rikers by October 2018.
- Teens belong in a youth justice system designed for them, staffed by people trained in that system.Department of Correction officers should not staff youth facilities.
- Lawmakers must ensure full funding for Raise the Age and Close to Home
Here are some key moments and quotes from the press conference:
“The decision that currently stands that Department of Corrections will supervise 16 and 17 year-olds even when we move them off of Rikers and into other facilities more appropriate children is just simple wrong .. the key question for the City to answer: What is the value and principle you are going to embed every step of the way as we treat 16 and 17-year-olds as children.” – Tina Luongo, Chief Defender of the Legal Aid Society of NY.
“We have a mandate and responsibility to the next generations, to the young people who will be our future doctors, our future engineers, accountants, and business owners in our communities. We will not stop until this is resolved.” – Annie Minguez, Director of Government and Community Relations at Good Shepherd Services
“My brother was 16 years old when he was sentenced to a 47 ½ years to life sentenced. That 16-year-old boy is now 52 and in year 36 of that sentence. #RaiseTheAgeNY finally passed. We have gotten this far, let’s do it right. When I look at my brother and I think if we had programs like Community Connections for Youth then, maybe my brother wouldn’t be serving his 36th year. Let’s stop looking at these kids as risks and threats, they are assets.” Lissette Nieves, Deputy Director of Programs at Community Connections for Youth
“We all agree that our children are valuable to us. We passed #RaiseTheAgeNY, now it’s time for implementation. This principle that children should come first should not change because of budget issues or because of policies that we are trying to implement and protect. The first question we ask ourselves is: are we treating children as children?” Paige Pierce, CEO of Families Together NYS
Councilmember Andy King was also present at the press conference moments before he sat in the Chambers to await testimonies from those attending the hearing. He expressed his continued support and reassured his commitment to prioritizing what works.
Please take a minute and click here to tweet a Thank You to NYC legislators for working with the Raise the Age New York campaign to honor a smooth and just transition, one that upholds the promise of this new piece of legislation.
CLICK ON IMAGE BELOW TO WATCH FULL PRESS CONFERENCE
CLICK HERE AND SCROLL TO 4/18/2018 TO WATCH HEARING