NY Will No Longer Prosecute Children Under The Age Of 12
Children under the age of 12 will no longer face arrest and prosecution for virtually all crimes in New York under a bill signed into law late this week by Gov. Kathy Hochul
Children under the age of 12 will no longer face arrest and prosecution for virtually all crimes in New York under a bill signed into law late this week by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The bill signed by Hochul raises the lower age of the state’s jurisdiction for juvenile delinquency, a move that will prevent those under the age of 12 from arrest except in the case of a homicide.
Under the prior law, anyone between the age of 7 and 18 could be charged as a juvenile delinquent in New York, allowing them to be subject to the criminal justice system for many crimes.
When the new law takes effect in a year, the lower age will be increased to 12. It’s a move that many criminal justice reform advocates had been pushing for years, noting that children of color are affected at a disproportionate rate.
Across the state, at least 800 children under the age of 12 were arrested by police in 2019, according to the Legal Aid Society. In New York City, about 90% were Black or Hispanic.
“When you criminalize young folks at an earlier age, they’re subjected to much more trauma,” said Bronx State Senator Jamaal Bailey, who sponsored the legislation. “And our children, as resilient as they are as we’ve seen throughout this (COVD) pandemic, they can only bear so much.”
Under the new law, local social services departments will be required to set up what’s known as a differential response program for those under the age of 12 who may have otherwise been charged as a juvenile delinquent.
Those programs, which are subject to state review, are meant to connect children with proper mental-health care and other services rather than enter them into the juvenile justice system.
In signing the bill, Hochul said the measure required “small technical amendments to ensure proper implementation.” She said the state Legislature has agreed to those changes and would approve them when lawmakers return to the state Capitol this month.
Hochul’s signing was cheered by The Legal Aid Society, which called the legislation “critical.”
“For decades, our young clients – the overwhelming majority of whom come from communities of color – have suffered significant trauma from these draconian practices, including lifelong harm,” Dawne Mitchell, the organization’s attorney–in-charge of its juvenile rights practice, said in a statement on Thursday.