Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (R,C,I,Ref-Ballston) today voted against the passage of the Assembly Majority “Raise the Age” legislation, which would raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old. This controversial legislation would protect 16- and 17-year-olds who commit serious crimes from being placed in adult jail or prison.
“While the Assembly Majority proposal to keep some youthful offenders out of prison is well-intended, it misses the mark for a variety of reasons,” said Walsh. “We already have a system and regulations set in place at the state level to enforce many of the protections outlined in this bill. 16- and 17-year-olds are diverted to probation and receive services, not confinement, in the vast majority of cases. The claim that necessary services will only be provided if the age is adjusted is not true. Rather than starting over and placing another costly, unfunded mandate on taxpayers, we should provide existing agencies and court systems with the support they need to increase efficiency and provide additional services throughout the state.”
According to the governor’s estimate in his budget, the ‘Raise the Age” initiative will cost $1.68 billion, of which the local share will be $809 million. Walsh believes this money could be better spent on improving diversion services that are already being provided, rather than completely overhauling a system that works.
“In addition to the high cost of this proposal, I am also concerned that these potentially- dangerous offenders would be placed in detention facilities that are not secure or equipped to support such criminals,” said Walsh. “I fear this transition could put the safety of young people who commit minor crimes or employees of the facilities at great risk.”