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Westchester Children’s Association Hosts 'Raise The Age' Meeting

Representatives of the "Raise The Age" initiative in White Plains are (from left) Bart Warden, Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Cora Greenberg, Soffiya Elijah, Allison Lake, Dr. Traci Gardner and Sen. Ruth Hassell Thompson.
Representatives of the "Raise The Age" initiative in White Plains are (from left) Bart Warden, Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Cora Greenberg, Soffiya Elijah, Allison Lake, Dr. Traci Gardner and Sen. Ruth Hassell Thompson. Photo Credit: Courtesy Westchester Children's Association

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- A standing room only crowd joined the Westchester Children's Association (WCA) for a town hall event called "Raise The Age" on Oct. 30 at the White Plains Library.

The "Raise The Age" initiative "calls for New York State to join the rest of the country in raising the age of criminal responsibility for juvenile offenders," according to a press release. New York is the only state other than North Carolina where all those age 16 and older are treated as adults in the criminal justice system, according to the release.

Several speakers talked about "the impact that treating youth as adults has on the individual as well as society," according to the release. Among the speakers were New York State Sens. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, 36th District, and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, 35th District[ Dr. Traci Gardner, a pediatrician at Children’s Village; Bart Worden, leader, Ethical Culture Society of Westchester; and attorney Soffiyah Elijah, executive director, Correctional Association.

"The most powerful voices were those of two young men who were arrested at 16; instead of being jailed as adults, they were sent to the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester in Mount Vernon, an innovative alternative to jail for young men ages 16-21 awaiting disposition of various criminal charges," representatives said in the release. "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."

WCA Deputy Director Allison Lake also spoke during the evening about "how youth are currently treated in the criminal justice system and the effect it has on their lives and the impact it has on our communities," according to the release.

“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," Cora Greenberg, executive director of the WCA, said in the release. “We urge New Yorkers to become educated on this issue and to communicate with their elected officials."

Individuals can learn more about the initiative and sign an on-line petition at the Raise The Age NY website .

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