WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- A large group of citizens and young people from across Westchester County recently traveled to the Albany to speak with state lawmakers about the raising the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18-years-old in the state.
The group, which included members from the Westchester Children’s Association, the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester, Youth Shelter Program of Westchester After Care, White Plains Youth Court and Bravehearts, a peer-to-peer support and mentoring group for youth aging out of foster care, and several adults representing the League of Women Voters of New Castle, the Westchester Jewish Community Services, Children’s Village, Country Children’s Center and the Legal Aid Society, gathered earlier this week to make the two-hour trip to the capital.
Once there, they joined other concerned citizens from across the state to ask state lawmakers to enact a comprehensive "Raise the Age" policy as part of the final state budget.
Currently, New York is only one of two states that automatically prosecute 16- and 17-year olds as adults.
According to the Westchester's Children's Association:
- 74 percent of criminal acts committed by 16 and 17 year olds in New York are misdemeanors.
- 52.5 percent of the 16 and 17 year olds arrested in 2010 in New York (excluding New York City) were white, with 33.2% of those arrests resulting in incarceration.
- In contrast, 33.2 percent of the 16 and 17 year olds arrested were African American, but 52.2% of those arrests resulted in incarceration.
- In one study, young people transferred to the adult criminal justice system were approximately 34 percent more likely to be re-arrested for a violent crime.
- Youth can be placed in solitary confinement if they are in adult prisons (this is not the case for juvenile facilities). This isolation is destructive to adolescent mental health – young people in adult facilities are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than those in juvenile facilities.
- Research on brain development underscores that adolescents are in fact children, and the human brain is not fully formed until the age of 25.
For more information, visit www.wca4kids.org/gps4kids .
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