(New York, NY, Monday, January 3, 2022) – The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) applauds New York State Governor Kathy Hochul’s signing into law legislation relating to raising the age of juvenile delinquency from seven (7) to twelve (12) years of age. The new law also establishes differential response programs for children under the age of twelve whose behavior, but for their age, would bring them within the jurisdiction of the Family Court in an effort to prevent future interaction with the juvenile justice system. WBASNY commends Senator Jamaal T. Bailey and Assemblyman Andrew D. Hevesi and all of the Co-Sponsors of Bills S4051A /A4982A, which ends automatic prosecution of children in the adult criminal justice system under twelve (12) years of age.
WBASNY has long recognized and supported raising the age legislation because young children subjected to the criminal justice system and treated as adults exposes them to damaging collateral consequences that include education and employment barriers, physical and sexual abuse, suicide and mental and physical developmental disorders.
Statistics in New York reflect that children ages 7 to 12 accounted for 2% to 4% of the State’s incarcerated population from 2014 to 2018 of which approximately 25% are girls. In New York City, 90% of children charged between these ages were children of color, all of whom were Black and/or Latinx. In addition, most of these children have been accused of non-violent crimes and should not be treated like hardened criminals.
It is hoped that this law will combat the School to Prison Pipeline for young children. The requirement that municipalities utilize community-based programs to provide role models and positive educational opportunities is designed to ensure that children receive necessary services, instead of exposure to policing, the juvenile justice system and jail. Under the new law every county must identify and organize services to respond to young children’s needs, mitigate harm and build family resiliency. In 2017, the Speaker of the New York Assembly, Carl E. Heastie stated during the Raise the Age Debate on the floor of the Assembly, and it holds true today, “This is a new chapter where young people can recover from past wrongs without forfeiting their futures.”
In commenting on the law, WBASNY President Dawn Reid-Green stated “The time has come to end the School to Prison Pipeline, a cycle of trauma inflicted on our elementary school-aged children treating them as criminals and instead, treat them for who they are: children. This law is another important step to that end.”
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY) is the professional membership organization of choice for more than 3,500 attorneys throughout New York State, and the largest statewide women’s bar association in the country. For over four decades, WBASNY has been a singularly important resource for women lawyers, with professional networking, continuing legal education programming, leadership training, and advocacy for the rights of women, children, and families. Through involvement with WBASNY’s 20 regional chapters and its 40-plus substantive law committees, WBASNY’s members collaborate with one another on a variety of issues and perform public and community service, in furtherance of its mission to promote the advancement of the status of women in society and women in the legal profession; to promote the fair and equal administration of justice; and to act as a unified voice for its members with respect to issues of statewide, national and international significance to women generally and women attorneys in particular. WBASNY holds United Nations NGO status with the U.N.’s Department of Public Information, and Special Consultative status in association with the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). WBASNY is also a founding member of the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations.