Is Cuomo’s ‘Raise the Age’ proposal the real deal?

Stephon Johnson | 3/9/2017, midnight
New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been vocal about raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York State.
Rikers Island

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been vocal about raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York State. He’s a talking head in Spike TV’s documentary, “TIME: The Kalief Browder Story,” and he recently put out a statement on Raise the Age Advocacy Day pushing his plan for change.

“New York is one of only two states in the nation that automatically processes our 16- and 17-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system, no matter the alleged offense and despite the fact that the majority of teenagers arrested in recent years have been locked up for non-violent crimes,” said Cuomo in a statement. “This unfair practice places some of our youngest New Yorkers in a prison system where they are more likely to be assaulted, to be injured by prison staff and to commit suicide than their peers processed as juveniles. They are also far more likely to be re-arrested and re-incarcerated.
“Many problems have no clear or proven solution, but this one does,” continued Cuomo. “By raising the age, we can ensure that juveniles receive the intervention and rehabilitation they need to break the vicious cycle of recidivism and increase public safety for all New Yorkers.”

But Cuomo’s current proposal for raising the age doesn’t sit well with some New York State Senate Democrats, who have called it a “Band-Aid.”

Cuomo’s plan would immediately raise the age of criminal responsibility to 17 and eventually raise it to 18 in 2020. The plan also includes raising the age at which a young person could be tried as an adult to 16 and 17 years old (from 13 to 15 years old) if charged with an expanded list of juvenile offenses that now include all class A felonies, homicides, violent felony offenses, sexually-motivated felonies, felony vehicular assaults and aggravated criminal contempt and conspiracy to commit or tampering with a witness related to any of the aforementioned crimes.

Cuomo’s plan also expands the number of juvenile offender eligible offenses for adult court to include acts of terrorism, criminal possession of a chemical or biological weapon, criminal use of a chemical or biological weapon and predatory sexual assault.

According to New York State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, that not’s the only difference between Cuomo’s plan and what Senate Democrats want.

“While I am thankful that the Governor has made a commitment to raising the age this year, I am concerned about key differences between his proposal and the bill Assemblyman Lentol and I have introduced,” said Montgomery in an email to the AmNews. “For example, our bill would go into effect on Jan. 1 of 2018 while his implementation would be staggered, impacting thousands of children. The Governor proposes a 10 year waiting period to seal records while our bill has a one year wait for misdemeanors and a 3 year wait for felonies.

“In addition, his proposal increases the number of offenses that youth can be charged as adults for including vehicular infractions and simple drug possession,” continued Montgomery. “The Executive budget also includes $110 million in capital allocation for an additional facility which if built, will certainly need to be filled.”