Prosecuting More Adolescents as Adults Won’t Make Communities Safer


To Make New York Safer, Legislators Should Focus on Passing a Budget that Makes Unprecedented Investments in Young People and Communities. 

February 14, 2022 – Today, Mayor Adams visited Albany to meet with lawmakers about rolling back criminal justice reforms, including Raise the Age, and making it easier to prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in criminal court. The Raise the Age campaign thanks Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie for their steadfast support and refusal to return to failed policies of the past.

Every New Yorker deserves to be safe. Communities across the City and State are deeply concerned about the surge in shootings since the start of the pandemic.  As our legislative leaders have noted, these increases are part of a national trend in many communities, unrelated to recent reforms.  They call for real solutions, not politically convenient rollbacks that scapegoat children for the failures of adults to keep communities safe.

We call on our elected officials to continue to reject this invitation to revisit the Raise the Age law, and to pass a budget that centers on young people and advances a public health response to gun violence.  This starts by ensuring that full funding for Raise the Age implementation is reaching communities, and increasing investments in a wide range of community-based resources for youth.

Today’s gun violence is not the result of Raise the Age. The facts are clear: within the first 18 months of the law, youth arrests and detentions dropped and the number of shootings across the city sunk to record lows. The recent increase in crime in many communities across the U.S., including places where there has been no criminal justice reform, is instead a direct result of the pandemic and related economic devastation.

The pandemic has compromised the safety and stability of families, dramatically exacerbating existing socio-economic inequalities with the loss of caregivers, loss of employment and income, education disruption, and skyrocketing behavioral health needs – all disproportionately impacting youth of color.

A few weeks ago, the Raise the Age NY campaign put out a  Youth Justice Agenda for New York, endorsed by over 50 youth-serving, community, and civil rights organizations statewide.  We call for a bold new vision for youth justice to achieve genuine, lasting safety for youth, families, and communities.

Our statewide elected leaders in Albany must stay focused on the critical task at hand – they must adopt a budget that makes sorely needed investments in New York’s youth, ensuring access to behavioral health care, employment, youth development, as well violence-reduction programming that is rooted in communities and centers credible messengers.

This is not the time to go backwards. New York spent generations treating children as adults in the criminal courts with no correlation to reduced crimes rates.  Proposals to amend Raise the Age legislation scapegoat youth and distract from the actual solutions our elected leaders must responsibly advance to achieve public safety.

For more information, contact:   |  @RaisetheAgeNY

The Raise the Age NY Coalition includes organizations from across New York, including formerly-incarcerated youth and their families, child advocates, service providers, faith leaders, legal services groups, and unions. Together, we helped pass the Raise the Age law to end the practice of automatically charging all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Today, we stand with allies from across the state who are moving youth justice forward.