new york and north carolina are the only two states in the u.s. which prosecute all 16-17 year-olds charged with a crime in the adult criminal justice system, regardless of the alleged crimes' severity. new york also treats 13-15 year-olds accused of committing certain serious crimes as "juvenile offenders."
juvenile offenders are prosecuted as adults - unless their cases are referred to family court. 16 and 17 year-olds in new york state who get detained or incarcerated via a criminal court order are confined in adult prisons and jails. juvenile offenders are confined in youth facilities (at least) until they are 18 years old.
each year over 45,000 kids aged 16 and 17 are arrested as adults in new york state. because the law defines them as adults, they can be questioned by police without parental notification and confined alongside adults in prisons and jails.
young people housed in adult prisons are in grave danger. they're 50% more likely to face attacks from other prisoners, twice as likely as adults to be assaulted by prison staff, and five times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than their peers in youth centers. children in adult jails are also 36 times more likely to commit suicide than those in youth facilities.
youth in adult prisons and jails are often kept in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day - for months at a time. extended isolation can be psychologically shattering for anyone, but it is especially harmful for developing adolescent minds.
research demonstrates prosecuting and sentencing children as adults not only presents threats to children's safety and well-being, but also decreases public safety. young people who are charged as adults have been shown to be more likely commit future acts of violence and return to prison at much higher rates than youth who were prosecuted as youth.
youth who are convicted of adult crimes may have to carry that mark with them for the rest of their lives, making it difficult for them to get on the right path and become productive and healthy adults. the aftermath of a lifelong criminal record often includes the permanent denial of educational loans; barriers to employment, housing and benefits; potential deportation, and the loss of housing for both themselves and their families.
this issue impacts some communities much harder than others. because they are more likely to be targeted by the police and are disproportionately represented at virtually every point in the justice system, young people of color are more likely than white children to bear the serious and lasting consequences of being charged and incarcerated as adults.
over the last decade, many states have successfully raised the age of criminal responsibility without overwhelming the courts or the youth justice system. usually a leader in criminal justice reform, new york state is shamefully behind on this issue. this outdated law puts our children and our economy at risk.
all children have a right to safety, and to access developmentally-appropriate services, programs, education and treatment. raising the age in new york state would increase public safety, limit dangers to youth, and provide healthier opportunities for our young people to grow and develop..
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.