State Sen. Jamaal Bailey (294063)
State Sen. Jamaal Bailey Credit: New York State Senate photo

The budget may be solidified, but The Legal Aid Society and some elected officials believe the work is not done. Especially when it comes to young people and the legal system.

They want to move forward despite New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul’s new budget. A group of activists are looking to push their agenda through other means.

The Legal Aid Society wants Albany legislation that addresses reform in the juvenile legal system and legislation that prohibits interrogating youth until they have counsel.

According to Legal Aid, this would “reduce collateral consequences that follow young people into adulthood by preserving the confidentiality of juvenile delinquency records and providing for their expungement; end draconian suspension practices that feed the school to prison pipeline; clarify that discriminatory hyper-surveillance is prohibited; and provide fair discovery in delinquency proceedings.”

The Legal Aid Society has backup with several elected officials introducing legislation addressing their grievances.

Introduced by New York State Sen. Jamaal Bailey and New York State Assembly Member Latoya Joyner, S2800B/A5901B would provide more protection for young people interrogated by police.

“Adolescent brain development research demonstrates why Miranda warnings are insufficient to protect young people’s 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. This bill would require that young people under the age of 18 consult with an attorney before being subjected to custodial interrogation, ensuring that any waiver of rights under Miranda is genuinely knowing, voluntary, and intelligent. Violation of this requirement would result in suppression of the child’s statement at trial.”

Attempts to contact Hochul, New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Leader Carl Heastie were unsuccessful.

Famously, the Black teenage boys that were labeled the Central Park Five and then the Exonerated Five were interrogated by cops for hours and held in custody until they got a confession out of them.

Bailey and Joyner also introduced Family Court Delinquency Discovery Reform (S4554/A4952) which would “provide rights in criminal proceedings that were put in place with the enactment of CPL Article 245.”

CPL Article 245 addresses the discovery process during court procedures.

Dawne Mitchell, attorney-in-charge of the juvenile rights practice at The Legal Aid Society, hopes Hochul and company hear their cries despite the current noise around City Hall.

“Our clients continue to suffer from decades of deeply flawed practices in both the juvenile legal and child welfare systems that forever shape the lives of Black and Latinx children and families,” stated Mitchell. “This package of legislation reinvests in children and families, and ushers in key overdue reforms. The Legal Aid Society calls on Governor Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie to enact these measures immediately this session.”

The Legal Aid Society wasn’t the only group that wanted Albany to know that they weren’t standing on the virtual sidelines either.

The New York County Defenders Services along with Legal Aid, The Bronx Defenders, The Queens Defenders, The Brooklyn Defender Services and the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem have pushed legislators to pass the gaggle of criminal reforms before session ends in June.

Some of these legislations include the Treatment Not Jail Act introduced by New York State Senator Jessica Ramos and State Assembly Member Phara Souffrant Forrest, and co-sponsored by Senators Cordell Cleare, Jabari Brisport, Michael Gianaris and Alessandra Biaggi. The legal groups are also advocating for the Clean Slate Act that addresses the sealing of records once someone has served their time.

In a statement the NYC Defenders said that these bills should be Albany’s priority.

“In the remaining weeks of the legislative session, lawmakers must prioritize and pass bills that will address root causes of criminal legal system involvement—reforms that decarcerate jails and prisons and create safer communities,” read their statement. “The heavy hand of law enforcement has never solved the many issues facing neighborhoods we serve; it has only exacerbated them by fueling mass incarceration. It’s time Albany advances measures that center investment and prevention.”

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