Written by Rich Jacques
Are 16-year-olds too young to be tried as adults? Some New Yorkers think so, and they're rallying to change the system.
New York is the only state other than North Carolina where people 16 and older are automatically treated as adults in the criminal justice system.
A diverse group gathered on the steps of the Nassau County Supreme Court Aug. 20 to highlight what they say is damage caused by treating children as adults in the legal system.
“Treating each and every teen offender as an adult criminal is an unconscionable disregard for basic brain science and what we know about adolescent development,” said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.
Nassau County, like the rest of New York State, recognizes that 16- and 17-year-olds lack the cognitive and emotional maturity needed to legally purchase alcohol, vote, get married, or even get a tattoo, said Angelo Pinto, Raise the Age campaign manager at the Correctional Association of New York.
“Yet, our state allows these same young people to be questioned by the police without parental consent, incarcerated alongside adults in adult jails and prisons, and permanently stigmatized with the mark of a criminal conviction," Pinto said.
A Time Magazine report discussing the pros and cons of the issue argues that trying children as adults has accounted for lower rates of juvenile crimes and other positive outcomes.
"Kids today are more sophisticated at a younger age; they understand the implications of violence and how to use violent weapons. It is absurd to argue that a modern child, who sees the effect of violence around him in the news every day, doesn't understand what killing really is. The fact that child killers know how to load and shoot a gun is an indicator that they understand exactly what they're doing," said the Time report.
Tell Us: Should the state raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16? Let us know in the comments section.