Westchester Children’s Association Joins Campaign
Calling on Albany to “Raise the Age” for Criminal Responsibility
(White Plains, NY – July XX, 2013) The Westchester Children’s Association has joined a broad group of leading children’s advocates, faith and civil rights leaders, unions and law enforcement officials who will launch the Raise the Age campaign at a rally in New York City’s Foley Square on Thursday, July 11th at 11am. The rally will call for New York State to join the rest of the country in raising the age of criminal responsibility. New York is the only state other than North Carolina where all children 16 and older are treated as adults in the criminal justice system.
Research shows that children react better to developmentally appropriate interventions available in the juvenile justice system. Children who go through the adult system, on the other hand, are more likely to re-offend and are at a higher risk of violence. The groups urged elected officials in Albany to raise the age of criminal responsibility for all youth who are currently treated as adults, regardless of the crime allegedly committed.
Currently, all of the estimated 50,000 16- and 17-year-olds arrested in New York, whether for a felony or misdemeanor, are presumptively treated as adults and their cases adjudicated in adult criminal courts. More than 600 children as young as 13 are prosecuted in adult court each year as well, seriously diminishing their life prospects before they even enter high school.
Data from 2010 shows that in Westchester County:
- 1,236 16- and 17-year olds were arrested
- 68.8% of those arrests were misdemeanors
- 15.7% were violent felonies
- 15.6% were other felony offenses
By October 1, 2012:
- 1,144 of the 1,236 cases were resolved
- 10.8% or 124 16 -17 year olds were sentenced to some period of incarceration.
- 12% (137) were sentenced to probation
- 38.8% (444) were not convicted/adjudicated
- 38.4% (439) received “other sentences” which includes conditional discharges, fines, unconditional discharges, and other/pending sentences.
The “Raise the Age New York” campaign says that raising the age for adult criminal responsibility for all crimes would enhance public safety and protect juveniles’ opportunities to lead productive adult lives. Raising the age would also allow the juveniles to become productive, taxpaying adults without the stigma of a criminal record hanging over their futures.
A statistical analysis of juveniles under the age of 18 who are arrested shows that black and Latino youths make up over 70 percent of those arrested, and 80 percent of those who are incarcerated. Three out of every four arrests for the juveniles – 74.4 percent – are for misdemeanors.
According to national studies, those placed in the adult criminal justice system also show far higher rates of recidivism – 80 percent commit new offenses after their release, and are 33.7 percent more likely to reoffend than those who are not placed in the adult system. Juveniles in adult prisons are more likely to be placed in solitary confinement, at great cost to their mental health, and are eight times more likely to commit suicide than those in juvenile facilities.
Children are also far less equipped to deal with the stresses found in adult facilities. Youths in adult prisons are more likely to have a substantiated report of sexual violence, twice as likely to report being beaten by staff and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon.
“At ages 16 and 17, young people are, in fact, still children. Research has shown that important areas of the brain that control decision making and impulse control are not fully developed until the age of 25, said Cora Greenberg, Executive Director of the Westchester Children’s Association. “We know that the behavior, character and even personalities of adolescents can change for the better with the right supports and interventions. Those are not possible in adult prisons, and adult courts are not designed to provide them.”
The Raise the Age New York campaign will also launch a website on July 11, http://raisetheageny.com/, which will serve as a clearinghouse for information on the juvenile justice reform efforts.
For more information about the Westchester Children’s Association and the Raise the Age campaign call (914) 946-7676 or visit http://wca4kids.org
About the Westchester Children’s Association
Since 1914, WCA has remained steadfast in its mission: to improve the lives of Westchester’s children by shaping policies and programs to meet their needs, and by keeping the well-being of Westchester’s children at the top of the public agenda.
- WCA identifies the needs of Westchester’s children and youth, develops innovative responses to those needs and advocates for policies and programs that benefit children.
- WCA is a valued resource for policy makers and the media on issues affecting children because we are independent, knowledgeable and effective.
- WCA is non-partisan and is not limited by ties to any political group, organization or funding source.
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