FTNYS Public Policy

Paige Pierce, Chief Executive Officer
Brad Hansen, Public Policy Coordinator

Our Principles:

Families and youth must be active participants in planning services for their family and in developing and monitoring policies and services within their communities and within the state.  


 All children, youth and their families must have timely, affordable access to appropriate services within their community.  


 Children and youth must receive an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment possible.


 Families should never have to relinquish custody of their children in order to receive mental health services.


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 Families Together in the News
Scroll down to the bottom of this page, http://www.ftnys.org/raise-the-age/ , to see video covereage of our 2015 Legislative Awareness Day press conference on raising the age of criminal responsibility!  
As you know, Governor Cuomo has included raising the age of criminal responsibility in his executive budget proposal. These next two weeks are critical. We need your help to ensure that this proposal becomes reality. 

What are we fighting for? 
- Parental notification of arrests for 16- and 17-year-olds.
- No youth ages 16- and 17-year-old in adult prisons or jails where they are more susceptible to abuse and suicide than adults. 
- Expanded diversion, adjustment and other age-appropriate services, including alternatives to detention and incarceration, to provide youth with alternatives to the justice system and services proven to reduce their likelihood of re-offending.
- Broadened eligibility for conditional sealing of records for certain crimes, to better address the collateral consequences of court involvement and help youth become more successful adults. 

How can you help?
In addition to the items below, check out the new toolkit released by the Raise the Age NY campaign to learn everything you need to advocate for these important reforms. Everything you need in one place! 

Sign and share the Raise the Age NY 
(Click the link).

Setting up meetings with legislators in your local districts.
 Let them know that you live and vote in this community, that you care about what happens to youth in the justice system, and that families and youth cannot afford to wait any longer for these reforms! Families Together in New York State and our regional chapters are happy to support and empower families and youth who want to help make a difference! Contact bhansen@ftnys.org for support in these efforts.

Amplify our voice through social media. Attached are two social media cheat sheets (here and here) to help join the conversation happening right now through Twitter and Facebook about juvenile justice reform, ex. #raisetheageny. Help us reach your social networks and amplify the important discussion happening throughout our communities. 
March 18, 2015

These days, it seems like everyone's talking about criminal justice reform - but getting "smart on crime" doesn't have a partisan divide. From religious leaders to progressives to law enforcement officials to conservative politicians like Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich, leaders across the political spectrum have come to recognize that criminal justice reform, particularly for juveniles, is badly needed to improve public safety in our communities.

New York has long lagged behind other states on this issue. Most strikingly, we are one of only two states - the other being North Carolina - that automatically treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in our criminal justice system. But we are on the brink of change, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo backing a comprehensive plan for juvenile justice reform.

One year ago, the governor convened the Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice- made up of legal, criminal justice and social services experts - and charged it with addressing this critical issue. They developed a comprehensive plan to reform the juvenile justice system, and last month the governor gave it his full-throated endorsement, including it in his proposed 2015-16 Executive Budget.

The plan would fundamentally change our approach to young people in the criminal justice system, with a focus on reducing recidivism rates and, in turn, improving public safety. Nearly 35,000 arrested 16- and 17-year olds in New York faced the possibility of prosecution as adults in criminal court in 2013 - the vast majority, 74 percent, for misdemeanors. More than 70 percent of youth arrested are black or Latino. Of those sentenced to incarceration last year, 80 percent are black or Latino.

The conditions these young people face in the adult criminal justice system increase the likelihood of their recidivism, making all of our communities less safe.

National studies show that young people in the adult system have 34 percent more rearrests for felony crimes than those in the youth system. A shocking 80 percent of all youth released from adult prisons reoffend, often going on to commit more serious crimes.

We should be putting our youth on precisely the opposite track, toward full re-entry into society.

The opportunity is real: The latest developmental science confirms that the brain is not fully developed until age 25 and is highly susceptible to positive, age-appropriate interventions designed to encourage more responsible choices.

Instead, we subject youth in adult facilities to traumatic conditions that increase their likelihood to reoffend. Youth in adult prison are twice as likely to report being beaten by staff, and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon, than those in youth facilities. They face the highest risk of sexual assault of any age group and are frequently placed in solitary confinement.

Overall, youth are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult facility than in a juvenile facility.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel. The governor's plan would make New York a national leader on these issues.
Proposed reforms include:

Raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18.

Ensuring no youth 16 or 17 years old are placed in adult facilities.

Moving most 16- and 17-year-old defendants to Family Court (and the rest to a new "Youth Part" of the adult system for those accused of more violent crimes).

Expanding alternatives to detention and incarceration to keep youth out of prison if more effective alternatives are available.

Increasing the age for youthful offender status to 21 and broadening eligible crimes, to better address collateral consequences and help more youth become successful adults.

The weeks ahead will be full of public haggling over many areas of the budget. But these sensible reforms should be adopted as they are.

In 2015, the time has come. New Yorkers are ready to raise the age and overhaul the criminal justice system - for the good of our youth and the safety of our communities.

Steven Krokoff is Albany's police chief. Paige Pierce is executive director of Families Together.

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