Note from FTNYS Policy Staff: Great opinion piece by New York City Council Member Letitia James and New York State Director for the Working Families Party Bill Lipton. For many parents and caregivers of children with cross-systems needs, worrying about their child having a run-in with the law is a day-to-day reality. For New York families, this concern is even worse as NY is one of only two states in the country that continues to automatically prosecute 16 and 17 year-old teens in the adult criminal justice system. While parental permission is required for getting a tattoo or going to a tanning booth under the age of 18, no parental notification is necessary upon arrest of that same teen. To learn more about Families Together in NYS and the Raise the Age NY campaign, visit http://www.ftnys.org/public-policy/raise-the-age/.
By Letitia James and Bill Lipton.
Posted: 01/07/2014 10:13 am
Imagine your sixteen year-old son, brimming with the promise of youth, making a dumb mistake and getting into a fight at school. He gets dealt a bad hand when his mistake is labeled an assault, and, before you know it, his future is hijacked by the cruel adult criminal justice system. Life for your son, once filled with opportunity, becomes a daily fight against the overwhelming forces of recidivism and brutality that signify our prisons -- all for one mistake he made as a child.
Sadly, this is a reality in New York.
Under Governor Cuomo, New York has made noteworthy strides in reforming our criminal justice system. Cuomo has led by closing New York state prisons, instituting juvenile justice reforms to bring youth back to rehabilitate in their communities, and creating the Work for Success program to help the formerly incarcerated get jobs and avoid a lifetime of punishment. In his State of the State speech on Wednesday, the Governor can continue his leadership on this issue by seeking to change one of the most antiquated and shameful aspects of the system -- our failure to treat children as children.
New York is one of two states left in the United States that automatically prosecutes children as adults. Roughly 50,000 16 and 17-year-old children are tried as adults every year in defiance of science and wisdom. By immediately placing each and every one of these children at risk of incarceration in the adult prison system, we set them on a dangerous path that promises to destroy their lives and threaten public safety. To read more, click here.