Statement of Seymour W. James, Jr., the Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, in response to the report of the Governor's Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice
TUESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2015

As the single largest New York State provider of both adult and juvenile delinquency defense, The Legal Aid Society is uniquely positioned in the conversation about raising the age of criminal responsibility. Raising the Age brings New York in line with 48 other states who have recognized the differences in prosecuting and rehabilitating those between the ages of 16 and 20.

We have provided the Governor's Commission members with information to assist them in the development of a report that has the goal of creating a system that treats our young clients in a way that is consistent with adolescent and young adult brain development. While we applaud the work and commitment of the Commission, as well as the Governor, in making this change a priority in the coming years, we believe the plan outlined by the Governor today, which evidences a tremendous shift in thinking regarding these young people, falls short of addressing all the changes that are required in order to truly regard our young clients in the manner their ages would suggest would be appropriate and fair. While we are pleased that the basic age of criminal responsibility has been raised to 18, we are disturbed by the number of exempted crimes in which adolescents will continue to be charged as adults. Additionally, although we are pleased YO treatment may be available up to age 20, we are disappointed that many 16 and 17 year olds will continue to be treated as adults despite the research and recognition by the commission that the impulse control portion of the brain is not fully developed for adolescents. In light of that research, we are deeply concerned with the Commission's recommendation to reopen adolescents YO adjudication if they are convicted of another crime. Because the implementation of the recommendations will require legislation as well as reallocation of resources, we will be monitoring the next steps closely as we continue to advocate for our clients.