Albany, NY - May 19, 2015 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that 15 members of New York's Congressional Delegation are joining his Raise the Age campaign and will be calling on members of the public to support passage of the governor's proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years of age and remove all minors from adult prisons and jails. The governor’s proposal had previously won widespread support among members of the state’s law enforcement community and children’s and civil rights advocates.
“Raising the Age is key to both improving public safety and helping at-risk teenagers build safe and successful futures,” Governor Cuomo said. “Without this reform, hundreds of young people each year will continue to be placed in adult prisons, where they face abuse and limited opportunities to rebuild their lives – which makes it more likely that they will commit criminal activity in the future. This is a common-sense proposal that will make our justice system stronger and fairer for all, and I am urging the state Legislature to stand with us and make it a reality this year.”
The following 15 members of the New York Congressional Delegation have joined the Raise the Age campaign:
• Congressman Charles B. Rangel
• Congressman Eliot Engel
• Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey
• Congressman José E. Serrano
• Congressman Jerrold Nadler
• Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney
• Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez
• Congressman Gregory W. Meeks
• Congressman Joe Crowley
• Congresswoman Yvette Clarke
• Congressman Paul Tonko
• Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
• Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney
• Congresswoman Grace Meng
• Congresswoman Kathleen Rice
The Governor’s proposal includes raising the age of criminal responsibility to ensure that 16- and 17-year old youth who are convicted of non-violent offenses are not incarcerated with the adult prison population.
By raising the age of criminal responsibility and implementing common-sense measures that help young offenders get back on track through means other than imprisonment, New York can reduce crime, recidivism and costs to the state. By keeping the law as-is, public safety is compromised because youth processed as adults have a 26 percent greater likelihood of re-incarceration than youth processed as juveniles.
Further, New York spends significant resources confining youth not accused of committing any crime. More than $100 million is spent annually to house youth in detention and placement, even when they are not accused of committing any crime. Other states address the needs of these youth more effectively and at a reduced cost through robust community-based services, many of which are included in this proposal.
The Governor's Raise the Age proposal follows the final recommendations made by the Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice and include: raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction for child and adult offenses; revising arrest and police custody procedure; revamping pre-trial diversion and court processing processes; removing youth from adult jails and facilities; expanding services to assist offender re-entry to communities; and addressing the collateral consequences of juvenile and youthful offenses.
The Commission was comprised of members of the law enforcement community, criminal justice system and children's and civil rights advocates; its recommendations would reduce the number of crimes against people by 1,500 to 2,400 every five years and save taxpayer dollars.
Members of the public wishing to state their support for Governor Cuomo's proposal can do so by clicking here. They can also join the conversation online using #RaisetheAge.
Congressman Charles Rangel: "I applaud Governor Cuomo's commitment to making New York's criminal justice system more equitable and just. Raising the age of criminal responsibility is not only an important step towards improving public safety in our City, but also ensures that our teenagers get a second chance. Instead of prosecuting under-age youths like adults, we should focus on providing opportunities that will prevent them from committing these offenses in the first place."
Congressman Eliot Engel: "New York has the unenviable distinction of being one of only two states to automatically process and incarcerate 16 and 17-year-olds as adults, even for non-violent offenses. I believe it's time to end this excessive judicial practice. The sensible reforms Governor Cuomo has proposed in his 'Raise the Age' campaign will give our younger offenders of non-violent crimes a better chance to turn their lives around, while reducing state costs and recidivism rates."
Congresswoman Nita Lowey: “Children should not be treated as adults for non-violent offenses. It’s clear the status quo in New York isn’t working, and we need smart reforms that reduce juvenile recidivism and keep our communities safe. I support Governor Cuomo’s plan to raise the age of criminal responsibility and implement other reforms to the state’s juvenile justice system. I will continue working with the Governor and the New York Congressional Delegation to make New York a safer place for children and families.”
Congressman José E. Serrano: “This important reform to our juvenile justice system will help reduce the incidence of recidivism among convicted youth by giving our justice system the flexibility to treat 16- and 17-year olds convicted of non-violent offenses as juveniles, rather than adults. This change will help connect these young men and women to the services they need to reduce the likelihood of future criminal acts, enhance our community based services for at-risk youth, and help our state save money in the process. It will also make for a fairer justice system that attempts to treat each person as an individual, and that seeks to provide the resources to help each individual rehabilitate and succeed. With this proposal, Governor Cuomo is helping communities like mine in the Bronx, and I look forward to working with him to ensure this initiative is a success in our community and the rest of New York.”
Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, "The Raise the Age campaign is designed to reduce crime, recidivism, and costs to the state. When we process minors as adults and incarcerate them with adults in local jails and adult prisons, they are more likely to commit more crime. Most other states address juvenile crime more effectively and at a lower cost by treating 16- and 17-year olds differently than adults. I appreciate Governor Cuomo's efforts to reform New York's criminal justice system and improve public safety in our state."
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney: “It’s sad but true: teenagers are capable of committing horrific crimes and deserve tough punishment when they do. But unless we’re willing to imprison these young people for the rest of their lives, we better have a strategy to ensure they are rehabilitated when the leave the criminal justice system. The current system, that treats teenagers as adults and forces them into jail cells with criminals twice their age, does the opposite. I commend Governor Cuomo for taking a realistic approach to solving this problem with the Raise the Age Campaign.”
Congressman Gregory Meeks: “Placing non-violent minors in prisons alongside repeat offenders is misguided, dangerous, and contributes to higher recidivism rates. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his work to prioritize the rehabilitation of non-violent youth offenders and am proud to be a part of the Raise the Age Campaign.”
Congressman Joe Crowley: “Governor Cuomo’s proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility is a sensible policy move that not only affords youth convicted of non-violent offenses every opportunity to become productive citizens, but also makes better use of our resources to keep our neighborhoods safe. It’s time for New York to join other states around the country in making sure these young men and women are kept out of adult prison facilities that often jeopardize their futures and focus on a more effective means of re-entry for these individuals.
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke: "For decades, the State of New York has attempted to impose retribution on young men and young women who have legal issues, without any effort to rehabilitate these individuals. The results have been a tragedy, with the lives of many young people ruined because the government failed to provide them with the resources that would allow allowed them to develop their talents and become full participants in our civil society. In addition, we now know from recent developments in neuroscience that teenagers are still developing mentally. A 16-year-old does not have the culpability of an adult—laws that impose such culpability are wrong. With my colleagues in the New York City delegation to Congress and Governor Cuomo, I urge the State Assembly and the State Senate to fix this mistake. We cannot allow the mass incarceration of another generation of young men and young women."
Congressman Paul Tonko: We must do more to help at-risk children and young adults and demonstrate to our communities that they haven't been forgotten. As it stands, we are not doing enough to prevent recurring criminality for these youths. This is why I strongly support Governor Cuomo’s Raise the Age campaign. We need to ensure our juvenile justice system is refocused to better help these 16-17 year-olds to lead successful, happy lives and become positive contributors to our society.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries: “It is shocking that New York remains one of only two states in the nation to incarcerate 16- and17-year old adolescents as adults. This approach is wrong-headed, outdated, wasteful and fundamentally unfair. The Governor’s Raise the Age proposal is a tremendous step in the right direction, and passage would be a significant criminal justice reform.”
Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney: “As one of the only two states in the country that automatically prosecutes young offenders as adults, we must reform the juvenile justice system and make these commonsense changes to the legal process.”
Congresswoman Grace Meng: “There are many parts of our criminal justice system that are in need of reform. One major component is affording teens who commit nonviolent offenses with the opportunity to rebuild their lives and become productive members of society.”
Congresswoman Kathleen Rice: “Most 16 year old kids don’t think and act like adults, so it doesn’t make sense to prosecute and incarcerate them as adults. It makes them more likely to commit more crimes and end up right back in jail, which undermines public safety, costs taxpayers money, and costs us the opportunity to help kids turn their lives around and make positive contributions to their communities. Raising the age to 18 for nonviolent offenders will help break this cycle of recidivism and make our communities safer. That’s why I advocated for raising the age as the Nassau County District Attorney, and why I continue to urge all state lawmakers to give this proposal the support it deserves.”