Local lawmakers want to reform ‘Raise the Age’

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 4:19 PM EDT
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ALBANY, New York (WWNY) - Republicans in Albany say a piece of legislation signed five years ago needs to be reformed. The goal is to hold adolescent offenders more accountable for their crimes.

“Raise the Age” was created to improve the way New York’s judicial system treats young people. But lawmakers say it’s actually exacerbating crime.

“There are 16 and 17-year-olds out there that are committing some very, very serious crimes and it concerns me greatly when you see there’s only an 8 percent felony conviction rate for any of the youthful offenders out there,” said Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay (R. - 120th District).

Signed in 2018, the legislation raised the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18. That means any offenders under 18 can have their cases held in family court rather than in criminal court.

Barclay has introduced a bill making some revisions, especially in regard to more violent crimes.

One of them would require any violent felony offense committed by an adolescent to be maintained in the Youth Part of Criminal Court unless all parties agree to move the case to family court.

As it’s written now, only the district attorney has to agree if a case is moved to family court.

Barclay and Assemblyman Scott Gray say the law as it’s written now isn’t doing much to stop crime.

“Communities don’t feel safe and there is a crime outburst like we’re having, and if people don’t feel safe, it’s our obligation to do something to make sure the communities and people in those communities are safe,” said Gray (R. - 116th District).

According to the state, in 2021, 16 and 17-year-old offenders accounted for:

  • 112 arrests for homicide
  • 587 arrests for firearms/dangerous weapons offenses
  • 80 arrests for sex offenses
  • 691 arrests for robbery
  • 213 arrests for burglary

“Look at the statistics, look at some of the numbers here, and you have to make some adjustments,” said Gray.

Jefferson County District Attorney Kristyna Mills said, “I am supportive of the proposed reforms that aim to protect society from the most violent young criminals while remaining true to the goal that the legislature intended with the passage of this law to begin with.”