Retired State Supreme Court Justice talks ‘Raise the Age’

 

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Raising the age of criminal responsibility has been a longstanding goal in Albany.

Sunday, the New York Senate officially gave it the stamp approval in the 2017-2018 budget. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the measure Monday.

It will be implemented in phases; by October of 2019 the age of criminal responsibility in New York will be 18.

Retired State Supreme Court Justice Penny Wolfgang feels the initiative has merit, and is worth a try.

Raising the age of criminal responsibility she said, will be a major change to the current court system.

It creates a new funnel for youthful offenders to enter the criminal justice system; instead of going straight to adult criminal court, 16 and 17-year-olds will be funneled into the new ‘Youth Part’ of Criminal Court.

Their cases will be heard by a Family Court judge, and could be moved to Family Court if the judge sees it appropriate.

“I feel that it’s worth a try toget young people out of the adult criminal justice system, where they are more likely to become hardened criminals,” Wolfgang told News 4.

The retired justice said young criminals who served time in prison often returned to her courtroom.

She’s thinks ‘Raise the Age’ could have a positive impact on recidivism by cutting down on youth incarceration.

“I think it’s  going to have a big impact on the criminal justice system as a whole and particularly on Family Court or the juvenile system,” she said.

Wolfgang noted that to make the law successful, Family Court will need more resources in the form of additional judges, counselors, probation officers, and more funding.

Under “Raise the Age”:

  • Misdemeanors committed by 16 and 17-year-olds go to Family Court, where offenders have access to additional services
  • Non-violent felonies go to Family Court
  • Violent Felonies will be handled in the Youth Part of Criminal Court initially
    • Cases will be subject to a three-part test that weighs the seriousness of the crime to see if it can be moved to Family Court
    • Cases that remain in the Youth Part of Criminal Court must consider age during sentencing

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Retired State Supreme Court Justice talks ‘Raise the Age’