The Legal Aid Society Urges The Removal Of 16 And 17 Year Old Men And Women From Rikers And Utilization Of Alternatives To Incarceration

In testimony before the New York City Council, The Legal Aid Society strongly proposed the removal of 16 and 17 year old young men and women from Rikers Island and other City adult jails. Alternatives to detention, alternatives to incarceration and pre-trial community supervision for our youth should be utilized in all but the rarest of circumstances. 

Nancy Ginsburg, Director of The Legal Aid Society's Adolescent Intervention and Diversion Project in the Criminal Practice, a specialized unit dedicated to the representation of adolescents aged 13 to 18 who are prosecuted in the adult criminal courts, and William Gibney, the Director of the Criminal Practice Special Litigation and Law Reform Unit, testified before the Council Committees on Fire, Criminal Justice Services, and Juvenile Justice on the  Oversight: Examining the Treatment of Adolescents in New York City Jails and Reviewing the United States Department of Justice's Report on Violence at Rikers Island.

New York State is one of two remaining states in America to prosecute all 16 and 17 year olds as adults for all crimes. Almost all of the 16 and 17 year olds, like those younger and older in New York City, who are prosecuted for the commission of crimes are African-American or Latino, poor, and living in underserved neighborhoods. When a Court orders that a 16 and 17 year old adolescent is to be incarcerated in a local jail, that teenager is placed on a bus to Rikers Island, ripped away from their community, services and family. Good morning. In 2011, Chief Judge Lippman first called for New York State to raise the age of criminal jurisdiction, introducing legislative language to facilitate that process. In April of this year, Governor Cuomo convened a Commission to examine raising the age of criminal jurisdiction, stating “It’s time to improve New York’s outdated juvenile justice laws and raise the age at which our children can be tried and charged as adults. New York is one of only two states that charges 16 and 17 year olds as adults. It’s not right and it’s not fair.” The Commission is expected to issue a report at the end of 2014.

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