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Rethinking “Juveniles” in New York

| October 12, 2011

A few weeks ago, Right on Crime wrote about the news of a statutory change in Mississippi, which required more 17-year-olds to be charged in juvenile courts rather than adult courts.

Now, we hear that the state of New York is considering a similar change. The Chief Judge of the State of New York, Jonathan Lippman, has proposed that 16- and 17-year-olds charged with “less serious crimes” be tried in family courts—the traditional venue for juveniles in New York—rather than as adults.

New York is one of the last two states to try all 16-year-olds as adults.  (North Carolina is the other.) There are good reasons why this trend is rapidly fading away—and New York, with ten-year recidivism rates of a stunning 89% for boys and 81% for girls—should reconsider the propriety of sticking with its current system.

Juvenile offenders charged with a minor, non-violent crime, are probably better cases for reform rather than incarceration. The rehabilitation resources available in the family court system in New York City are far greater than those in the traditional justice system, and allowing juveniles access to these resources gives them a better chance to go on to lead productive, law-abiding lives – rather than lives in which taxpayers are forced to pay for decades of their living arrangements behind bars.

Importantly, it also seems that Judge Lippman is going to ensure that violent, dangerous offenders are still held appropriately accountable for their actions by remaining in the traditional justice system. This comports with Right on Crime’s belief that incarceration is more than appropriate for violent and repeat offenders.

Before this proposal is implemented, the Governor and state Legislature will need to approve it. The Governor has, in the past, suggested his openness to smart juvenile justice reform and a focus on community-based treatment alternatives, but he will still need to convince the legislature, which has already rejected this proposal once before.

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RIGHT ON CRIME is a national campaign to promote successful, conservative solutions on American criminal justice policy—reforming the system to ensure public safety, shrink government, and save taxpayers money. By sharing research and policy ideas and mobilizing strong conservative voices, we work to raise awareness of the growing support for effective reforms within the conservative movement. We are transforming the debate on criminal justice in America.

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