Cuomo names ‘raise the age’ committee members
4/17/2014, 1:59 p.m.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has followed through on his “raise the age” promise and appointed members to a new committee devoted to the issue.
Cuomo’s new Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice will provide “concrete, actionable” recommendations in regards to the youth in New York’s criminal and juvenile justice systems by the end of the calendar year. The 16-person committee includes Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel for the Latino Justice PRLDEF; Soffiyah Elijah, executive director and co-chair of the Correctional Association of New York; Michael Hardy, executive vice president and general counsel of the National Action Network; Elizabeth Glazer, director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice; and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
During his State of the State address, Cuomo talked about establishing a “raise the age” committee to ensure young people become successful and productive adults. “It’s time to improve New York’s outdated juvenile justice laws and raise the age at which our children can be tried and charged as adults,” he said. “New York is one of only two states that charges 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. It’s not right, and it’s not fair. I am pleased to welcome these exceptional members of the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice, who will work to make the system fairer and safer for our youth and communities.”
New York is one of only two states in the country whose age of criminal responsibility—the age where youths are treated as adults in the eyes of the law—is just 16. In 2013, more than 33,000 16- and 17-year-olds in New York had cases handled in adult criminal court, where they are less likely to receive the services the governor believes they need. According to activists, an estimated 50,000 16- and 17-year-olds are arrested in New York each year, either for a felony or misdemeanors, and presumptively treated as adults, with their cases adjudicated in adult criminal courts. Seventy-five percent of those arrests are for misdemeanors.
Union leaders and activists were pleased with the latest developments regarding Cuomo and the committee.
“Scientific studies have proven that 16- and 17-year-olds are highly receptive to counseling and guidance and can reform their behavior, so why are we wasting taxpayer dollars on prosecuting young people as adults when it only leads to higher recidivism?” said George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, in a statement. “Keeping children within the juvenile justice system, and focusing on job training and counseling, is not only the smart and fiscally responsible approach, but it is also a moral imperative for our state.”
“We applaud Gov. Cuomo for following through on this important issue and elevating the national dialogue about juvenile justice,” said Jennifer March, executive director of the Citizens’ Committee for Children, in a statement. “We look forward to working with the commission to quickly develop comprehensive legislation that fulfills Gov. Cuomo’s vow to ensure New York’s place as a national leader in youth justice, improving public safety and ensuring better outcomes for youth who get in trouble with the law.”
According to the activists who launched the raise the age campaign in July, studies have suggested that raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility would lead to reduced recidivism among youth and, in turn, enhance public safety by providing age-appropriate interventions for young people.