Only two states remain that automatically charge 16-year-olds as adults
The need to raise the age of criminal responsibility has been written about here more than once. (Charging Juvenile Offenders as Adults parts one and two being two examples). Progress has been made, but our fight is not over. There are still two states left that prosecute and place children in the adult criminal-justice system—North Carolina and New York.
Let’s recap what’s at stake:
- Studies have found that young people transferred to the criminal justice system are more likely to be re-arrested for violent and other crimes than youth retained in the juvenile-justice system.
- Studies have shown that youth in adult prisons are twice as likely to report being beaten by staff and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon than children placed in youth facilities.
- Youth in adult prisons face the highest risk of sexual assault of all inmate populations.
- Youth are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult facility than in a juvenile facility.
- This issue disproportionately disrupts the lives of youth who are black or Latino.
These are just a few of the facts that make charging minors as adults reprehensible, contradicting the goals of rehabilitation and public safety. It is imperative, for the sake of the young people, their families and our communities, that we find other options.
Take action now
You are not powerless. There are things you can do to make a positive impact. So, let’s talk about what those things are. There are campaigns in New York and North Carolina working to push through legislation to raise the age. You can find them on Facebook by searching @RaiseTheAgeNY and @RaiseTheAgeNorthCarolina. Find them on twitter here and here. Follow them, visit their websites, and follow their calls to action as they publish them.
On RaisetheAgeNY’s website, there is a Take Action section that details a few different ways to get involved including their “Call-in for Justice Action” on the 16th of every month. It takes only two minutes to let your elected representatives know you want them to Raise the Age in 2017. There is also a link to a form for emailing your representatives with a statement in support of Raise the Age. Currently, there are petitions to eight different officials to Raise the Age. You can sign by clicking here.
RaisetheAgeNorthCarolina has a page on North Carolina Child’s website. They do not have actions listed, but their Facebook page posts calls to action when there are opportunities to support the cause. Additionally, you can sign a current petition to the North Carolina State House, North Carolina state senate and North Carolina governor asking to Raise the Age. You can access and sign the petition here.
Let’s do what we can to create a country united around the idea that children in all states deserve the chance to age-appropriate, evidence-based alternatives such as Multisystemic Therapy. Let’s Raise the Age!
Sarah Johansson is an MST-SA Supervisor at Sheltering Arms in New York.