Probation scrutinizes effects of raising age of criminal responsibility

CHENANGO COUNTY – As proposed legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York State gains traction among lawmakers, probation officers are pushing for clarification in the bill which will ensure that county probation departments will be fully funded by the state in order to meet new requirements if the legislation passes.

Debate over raising the age of criminal responsibility made its way to the forefront following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2015 “Opportunities Agenda” address in January. New York and North Carolina are the only two states in the country where 16 and 17-year-olds can still be prosecuted as adults for non heinous crimes.

Advocates of the bill argue that expectations of youth being rehabilitated in prison and leaving prison in better shape than they were are simply unrealistic.

A state-appointed pannel created in 2014 suggested raising the age of criminal responsibility in NY to 18 (though there are blurry lines when it comes to youth who are convicted of substantially heinous crimes). The change would mean that teens who would have been sent to prison would instead be treated as a juvenile delinquent and placed in a rehabilitation program, sometimes at the county’s expense. It would also mean a bump in cases handled by the county attorney and an increased work load for family courts.

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