Videotaped Interrogations and Fee Waivers: New York Expands Juvenile Justice Reforms

Originally published in The Imprint on December 15, 2020.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law last week requiring police to videotape all interrogations of youth, adding what legal advocates and law enforcement have hailed as an extra layer of protection for young people who often don’t fully understand their legal rights. 

The legislation is the latest effort to reform the juvenile justice system following passage of the state’s Raise the Age laws, which were fully implemented last year and shifted most 16- and 17-year-olds out of adult courts and lockups. A bill signed into law in the fall allows youth to challenge burdensome court fees, and pending legislation would strengthen their right to remain silent.

The new videotaping mandate, sponsored by state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, was requested by the second-highest judge in the state court system and will take effect in November 2021. 

Montgomery named it the “Central Park 5 Bill” in honor of the five Black and Latino teens who were ages 14 to 16 in 1989 when police interrogated them aggressively for hours without a lawyer, leading them to falsely confess to the violent rape of a woman jogging in the park. All five were convicted and served between six and 14 years behind bars, before another man confessed to being the sole perpetrator.

Montgomery said her bill is needed because, even today, kids are at risk of being in coercive situations with police. “Our children should never find themselves in a room alone with law enforcement and no record of the interaction,” she said.

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