Senator Jesse Hamilton Budget Statement - 04/03/17

I will not vote for a budget that does not bring New York in line with compassion and common-sense: children do not belong in prison, children must be treated as children. Thus I cannot vote in favor of this budget extender.

At our “Raise the Age” hearing in early February, we heard from jurists, advocates, educators, and every-day New Yorkers. One young man's testimony stood out most to me – his name is Lywan Reed. He bravely shared his experience of being treated as an adult by our system while still a child – his experience of solitary confinement and his experience of terror in our prisons. Those experiences call into question whether we can say we have a justice system at all.

That's why any budget I vote for must include Raise the Age. Because of Reed's experience, and that of every young person who has been brutalized by New York’s system. Their families and our communities deserve better. Kalief Browder and the memories of those who died due to this unjust system deserve better. We cannot go on traumatizing children and calling that brutality “justice.”

New Yorkers need us to pursue a justice system that has the twice blessed quality of mercy – as Shakespeare wrote, “It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” – instead of a justice system with too little compassion, too little forgiveness, and too little wisdom to see that children should not be treated the same as adults.

The quality of mercy, Shakespeare writes, “Tis mightiest in the mightiest.” Let us as a chamber, let us as a legislature, and let us as New Yorkers exhibit that merciful might. We must raise the age