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The Assembly Minority Conference

Legislature Must Fix Serious Flaws Created By ‘Raise The Age’

Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

Earlier this week, I joined with members of the Assembly Minority Conference and district attorneys to call for changes to the state’s criminal justice policy that is clearly compromising public safety. The “Raise the Age” law was passed in the 2017-2018 budget. While it may have been well-intentioned, too many of the components simply are not working.

Proponents of the bill argue it helps protect young individuals from harsh penalties that will follow them around the rest of their lives, which is certainly a noble idea. No one wants more young people behind bars. Low-level crimes committed by teens should obviously be treated differently than the process in place for adults. The issue, though, is that the law doesn’t provide proper accountability that should accompany violent crimes. Serious and dangerous offenses committed by Adolescent Offenders are typically moved into family court, where the process and penalties lack the appropriate level of accountability. 

Proof of this unfortunate reality is clearly outlined in statistics provided by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). In 2021, just 8% of offenders arrested for a felony crime received a felony conviction. Their charges range from robbery and burglary to sex offenses, homicide and threatening terrorism. Further still, according to data from the New York City Police Department, gun crimes are up 200% since the age of criminal responsibility was moved from 16 to 18.

The Assembly Minority Conference made a number of recommendations aimed at fixing the most egregious faults in the law. Our legislation would:

  • Require any violent felony offense—especially gang assault and possession of a weapon—committed by an adolescent offender be maintained in the Youth Part of Criminal Court unless all parties agree to move the case to family court.
  • Include and define “circumstances” that would prevent a non-violent felony case from being moved to family court, should a district attorney prove one or more circumstances exist.
  • Amend Criminal Procedure Law and the Family Court Act to ensure judges, prosecutors and defense counsel can access documents pertaining to arrests and juvenile delinquency proceedings.
  • Require a victim of a crime committed by a person under the age of 18 be notified of the outcome of a case.

New York state has a terrible habit of treating criminals better than crime victims. Worse still, this policy not only fails to create a more equitable justice system, it is actually exacerbating the problem by giving hardened criminals an exploitable human resource to further their operations. The law, as it stands, is another example of a misguided liberal agenda that wholly misses its intended target. This is a disturbing trend that has developed during the sitting One-Party regime, and one that desperately needs to be addressed immediately.