New York state lawmakers and justice reform advocates are trying to end formal prosecution for all children under the age of 12, in a measure that would steer them toward county-based social services.
The bill, sponsored by state Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, both Democrats, would raise the minimum age requirement for juvenile delinquency from 7 to 12. This age range made up about 2-4% of the state’s incarcerated population from 2014-18, according to state data. (Twelve-year-olds would still be eligible for juvenile delinquency status under the bill.)
The Legal Aid Society, the Children’s Defense Fund and other advocacy groups helped draft the legislation as part of a New York state black youth agenda, unveiled Tuesday. The three measures in the agenda would regulate how law enforcement agencies can search and charge youth across the state.
[ny bureau] “Amid the nation’s moment of reckoning around racism and the disparate treatment of Black and brown communities, New York must take action to protect our most vulnerable children and ensure that they are treated as children and not unjustly funneled into the prison pipelines that have historically ravaged communities of color,” said Dawne Mitchell in a statement. She is attorney-in-charge of the juvenile rights practice at the Legal Aid Society. “We urge the governor and state legislature to stand up for children and ensure equal justice for all youth across New York.”
The announcement comes as protests and advocacy groups mount pressure on city halls and the New York state capitol to shift resources from departments widely seen as reactive, including police and prisons, toward social services. The Legal Aid Society released a statement on the agenda on the same day protesters camped outside the New York state capitol in support of three other justice reform measures that did not make it to a vote.
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