Governor proposes additional corrections officers as part of justice reform plan
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today called on the State Legislature to pass a proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York.
Following a tour of Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie, the governor also announced that the state will hire an additional 103 full-time correctional officers to bolster safety and security throughout the state’s network of correctional institutions.
“Raising the age will fundamentally improve both our justice system and public safety – and with the funding to make it happen already set aside, it is imperative that the legislature pass this reform before the end of session,” Cuomo said. “By allowing the status quo to continue as is, we are relegating hundreds of teenagers each year – mostly young men of color – to an abusive prison environment that makes them more likely to commit crimes in the future. That is not only an injustice; it is an injustice that compromises public safety, and we must make a change. It’s time for the Legislature to raise the age.”
New York State is one of only two states in the nation that automatically prosecute 16- and 17-year olds as adults. Currently in New York, youth are detained with the adult population in local jails while awaiting trial. If convicted as adults, these teenagers are then matriculated into the greater adult prison population.
Cuomo and other advocates calling on the Legislature to pass legislation to Raise the Age, which follows recommendations from the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice. Under the Commission’s recommendations and as outlined in the bill before the Legislature, 16- and 17-year olds will be processed as juveniles for all crimes except for crimes of serious violence and all minors will have access to rehabilitation services.
This year’s budget includes $135 million, some of which will be immediately available to local governments upon enactment of legislation to Raise the Age.
During the visit, the Governor also highlighted the importance of supporting a safe environment for inmates and correctional officers. Over the last several years, violent incidents at adult correctional facilities have increased. In an effort to reverse this trend, the state is hiring an additional 103 full-time correctional officers. Hiring for these officers will begin in the next several months and all 103 will be in place by the end of the year.
“We must raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York,” said Soffiyah Elijah, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York. “Sending 16- and 17-year olds to prison for what are often offenses that do not warrant it actually increases the rate of recidivism, and it subjects these predominantly minority teenagers to horrible conditions of abuse. The human brain is also not fully developed at this age, so it is simply unjustifiable that we are subjecting these young men and women to this kind of hostile environment, which only sets them on a path to a future of heightened crime.”