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Raise the Age to 18
The Crime Commission is increasingly concerned that New York, which has a reputation for being one of the most progressive states in the nation, is about to become the last state in the country that treats all youths ages 16 and over as adults in its criminal justice system.
Historically, New York has recognized the inherent differences between youths and adults by operating separate courts and correctional systems for each population. The State has defined the jurisdiction of these systems by setting age limits for each.
Under NY law, once a child reaches their 16th birthday, they are considered criminally responsible for their actions. Therefore, all 16- and 17-year-olds, regardless of the crime committed, are subjected to the same system of prosecution, sentencing and corrections, and related consequences, as adults. Youth over age 7 and under age 16 are handled in the juvenile justice system.
The age of criminal responsibility defining the juvenile and adult systems is significant because of the different approaches to justice these systems take rehabilitative vs. punitive. As Chief Judge Lippman noted in a speech before the Crime Commission, a criminal conviction so often can be the difference between a gainfully employed productive citizen and an unemployed, welfare-dependent person who gets caught in the revolving door of the criminal justice system.
To align New York's juvenile justice policy with national best practices and improve the futures of our youth, the Crime Commission recommends the age of criminal responsibility should be raised to 18 years old for less serious and nonviolent crimes.
The Crime Commission in partnership with the New York Center for Juvenile Justice is working closely with an informal network of stakeholders to create a comprehensive analysis of the policy and a blueprint for reform. Raising the age of criminal responsibility will be a challenge, but by working collaboratively it is hardly an impossible task.
Media & Resources
NYCJJ: Because I'm 16
NYC Juvenile Justice Statistics