Raising The Age: Giving Youthful Offenders A Fighting Chance

“BUFFALO, N.Y. — Five shot in 24 hours and 14 homicides since the New Year. Buffalo is on track to have one of the deadliest years on record since 2014. On Tuesday morning, a half a dozen people hopped on a bus to Albany, rallying for a change they believe could help stop the violence.

“We’d like to see the age raised,” Bob Murphy of Buffalo said.

Raising the age so 16 and 17-year-olds won’t find themselves tried in the adult criminal justice system. The hope is to change the minimum age to 18. The battle is personal for Norah Massey. Her son was put behind bars at 16.

“Children and adults do not think alike, therefore they shouldn’t be charged the same,” Massey, with National Association for Equal Justice in America said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been fighting to ‘raise the age’ since 2014.

He called on state senators Tuesday writing, “This year’s state budget has exciting potential to make great strides for the people of New York. The budget contains a robust economic development program, groundbreaking college affordability program, property and income tax cuts for the middle class and groundbreaking civil rights progress with the proposal to ‘Raise the Age’ of criminal liability.

“New York should be ashamed to be one of two states in the nation that treat 15- and 16-year-olds as adults for criminal liability. The hell that is Rikers Island would be a target for human rights groups if they ever looked in their own backyard. Speaker Heastie, to his credit, has strongly advocated to pass Raise the Age. I have included it in my budget proposal to afford maximum leverage. Senator Klein is in a unique position to end the Senate’s historic recalcitrance on this issue and insist that Raise the Age reform be passed in the budget.

“The Executive and Legislature have an excellent track record on achieving multi-faceted, balanced progress for the state.  We have achieved unprecedented economic progress with spending controls, tax cuts, and our business development program. We have accomplished historic social change with marriage equality, paid family leave, gun safety, minimum wage, and transgender rights. We are a national progressive leader. This session we must add Raise the Age to that list.”

Pastor James Giles of Voice Buffalo helped coordinate the trip and agrees.

“Family court is a lot more comprehensive when it comes to getting in touch with community support,” Giles said.

He says it gives troubled kids and teens a chance to learn violence is not the solution, but just down the hallway Murray Holman disagrees. He’s the executive director of Stop the Violence Coalition and is troubled by the amount of death in Buffalo so far this year.

“We’ve got a lot of kids now-a-days that have been brought up playing video games that already have a stereotype about shooting guns and they don’t think there will be repercussions,” Holman said.

He says not trying teens as adults gives them the same idea.

“Once that spread around that he got away, than he’s going to push that message and the next guy’s going to be like, ‘Well you gave it Johnny, why not give it to me?'” Giles said.

Despite their different opinions both men can agree on one thing, something has to change.”

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