Advocates for "Raise the Age" are encouraged that $25 million in funding has been included for comprehensive juvenile-justice reform in the state budget that passed April 1.
The specifics of the reform will be worked out later in legislative session, according to Tolu Onafowokan, a spokeswoman for the campaign to raise to 18 the minimum age for a youth to serve a sentence in an adult prison.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo created a youth, public safety and justice commission last year to come up with recommendations for reform. The commission recommended that juveniles tried for violent misdemeanors and felonies would serve sentences in juvenile centers upon conviction, and minors charged with nonviolent misdemeanors could have their cases tried in Family Court.
New York and North Carolina are the only states that prosecute as adults youths who are 16 and 17.
"Research demonstrates that the adult criminal justice system is not appropriate for 16- and 17-year-olds who are still developing cognitively. It is time for New York to create a system that treats children as children and offers youth opportunities for rehabilitation," Kate Breslin from the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy stated in a press release. "The research is clear that the outcomes for youth sent to adult prisons is poor and youth are at greater risk for harm in adult prisons. Youth and the public will be better served by raising the age of criminal accountability."