NYAPRS Note: Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox is among those calling for New York State to “Raise the Age” of criminal liability from 16 to 18. Although Governor Cuomo’s executive budget proposal once again included the initiative, advocates are hoping to ensure that an agreement is reached by April 1 in which 16 and 17 year-olds currently in adult prisons would be removed to juvenile facilities.
NYAPRS vigorously supports “Raise the Age,” and was grateful to have Kari Siddiqui from the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy address it with our crowd at Lobby Day this past Tuesday.
Advocates Return To Capitol Again To Call To Raise The Age
By Matthew Hamilton Albany Times Union February 25, 2016
Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox says 48 other states with a higher age of criminal responsibility than New York can’t be wrong about that criminal justice policy.
He’s hoping state lawmakers here are ready to be right.
Cox is among those pushing again for “Raise the Age” legislation, which would raise that age of criminal responsibility from 16 years old to 18.
The idea is one that is supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who championed the legislation in 2015 without legislative success. Come December of last year, he took executive action, ordering 16- and 17-year-olds to be removed from adult prisons and placed in their own facilities.
Cuomo has again made Raise the Age legislation part of his executive budget proposal for 2016-17. But advocates in Albany on Thursday, of whom Cox was a part of, said they are lobbying all parties at the governor’s negotiating table — regardless of who says they already support it — to come to an agreement by April 1.
“I’m not going speak on behalf of the rest of law enforcement, I’ll speak on my own: We need to stop being afraid of change, plain and simple,” Cox said. “… If there’s issues within these 38 recommendations that are concerns, then we need to address those concerns, but that doesn’t mean we throw the whole road map out. We try to address those concerns.”
The recommendations Cox referred to are from a gubernatorial Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice, which offered up its final report more than a year ago. The Albany Police Department under then-Chief Steven Krokoff had a seat on that commission.
Before there even was a commission, Cuomo said he wanted to raise the age of criminal responsibility. After the commission presented him with its recommendations, Cuomo made raising the age part of a larger criminal justice package. That package also dealt with a special prosecutor for cases involving the police killing of an unarmed civilian and grand jury reform. As he did months later with what he could from the Raise the Age proposal, Cuomo in July used executive action to set up state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as a prosecutor for such cases for one year.
Now, in 2016, Cuomo has re-proposed Raise the Age. As the governor has focused on other pieces of his social policy agenda in recent weeks (paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage), his administration says it remains a budget priority.
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi called it “inexcusable that New York is still one of only two state that considers these youths to be adults in the criminal justice system.”
“We are hopeful that the Legislature finally joins us to Raise the Age this year,” he added.
For their parts, the state Senate and Assembly came down on different sides of the issue last year.
The Democratic-held Assembly pitched its own version of Raise the Age in its one-house budget proposal. Legislation is sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Lentol, D-Brooklyn.
Some in the Republican-held Senate expressed concerns, though Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan suggested he had tepid interest in some form of Raise the Age legislation.
For the advocacy community, accomplishing Raise the Age sooner rather than later is key (something that arguably could be said about any major policy pushed at the Capitol).
“Passing Raise the Age is, for us, a starting point; it’s not an ending point,” said Center for Community Alternatives Founder and Executive Director Marsha Weissman. “There will be questions about implementation, there will be questions about what facilities look like, there will be questions about what community alternatives look like. We can’t even get to those questions if we don’t have a law that raises the age.”