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September 23, 2011

Should there be specialized criminal courts for older teens?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this lengthy and fascinating article from the New York Law Journal, which is headlined "Lippman Urges Increased Age for Adult Prosecution of Teens." Here are excerpts:

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman yesterday said that within the next three months he will establish adult criminal court parts exclusively dedicated to handling cases of 16- and 17-year-old offenders in an effort to demonstrate that the age of criminal responsibility can safely and economically be raised.

In those courts, specially trained judges will bring a Family Court/rehabilitation focus to cases involving non-violent teens.  "The time has come" Judge Lippman said in an interview.  "We have been studying this issue for 50 years and there is momentum for juvenile justice reform. We need an approach that is based on the best interests of the child and rehabilitation rather than an approach based on punishment and incarceration."

While an increase in the age threshold for adult crimes requires legislation, the court system can establish the experimental adult criminal parts on its own.

In a speech to the Citizens Crime Commission yesterday, Judge Lippman noted that New York is currently one of only two states—North Carolina is the other—that treat 16-year-olds as adult offenders, a policy that he said breeds "abuse and future criminality." He wants to increase that to 18 for youths who commit less serious crimes while not changing the statute under which 13-year-olds who commit murder and 14-year-olds who commit other violent felonies are adjudicated as adults.

The goal of raising the age threshold for adult crime, shared by many other advocates for juvenile justice reform, has proven elusive, but Judge Lippman said that now the "time is ripe."  He has asked the New York State Permanent Sentencing Commission to prepare "on a fast-track basis" draft legislation in time for the 2012 legislative session, which begins Jan. 1.... "While it may be that we'll need more Family Court judges and a heftier probation entity, and while there are things that will cost more money, in the long run and probably short run it will save money," Judge Lippman said.

State reports indicate that New York spends roughly $266,000 per child per year to house young offenders in detention facilities — and the return on that investment is an 89 percent recidivism rate for boys and an 81 percent recidivism rate for girls over a 10-year period. Statistics show that of the 57 boys who were not re-arrested by the time they turned 28, 12, or 21 percent, are dead.

Judge Lippman noted that the number of youths incarcerated in New York has dropped from more than 2,200 to fewer than 700 over the past few years.  As of yesterday, the Office of Children and Family Services reported 605 teens being held in state facilities, 212 of which were incarcerated for committing adult crimes.

Judge Lippman credited Governor Andrew M. Cuomo with "clos[ing] down a number of these failed youth prisons." Still, he said, up to 50,000 16- and 17-year-olds are arrested annually in New York, mainly for minor crimes, and prosecuted as adults in criminal courts.  "I think the question of the day for all of us in New York is this: Are 16 and 17-year-olds arrested for less serious crimes better served by going to Criminal Court or Family Court?"

September 23, 2011 at 10:17 AM | Permalink


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here's a thought you mum-nut. they are comitting ADULT crimes...Take them to ADULT COURT! followed by ADULT PRISON!

Posted by: rodsmith | Sep 23, 2011 1:53:14 PM

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