COXSACKIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Governor Andrew Cuomo was in Greene County on Thursday to push for the passage of legislation that would raise the criminal age of responsibility.
Cuomo was at the Greene County Correctional Facility to meet with corrections officers and juvenile inmates.
New York is currently only one of two states that automatically prosecute 16 and 17-year olds as adults. The governor’s law would shift non-violent crimes committed by those who are under 18 to family court, and ultimately keep young people out of adult jails.
“After going through intakes and being in, like, housing area, I was fighting for almost, like, three weeks straight,” Charles Nunez said.
That was just the beginning of Nunez’s time in jail. After committing a non-violent offense, the Harlem native was sentenced to six months behind bars. He was 17 years old.
“It’s something that can take a burden on you,” he said. “But I think what’s even more, what causes even more damage is once you’re actually trying to integrate back into society.”
Nunez had trouble finding a job and a place to live. Statistics show that 16 and 17 year olds that go to prison for non-violent offenses are more likely to go on to commit other crimes. Cuomo says the answer is to raise the age.
“It is too early to condemn a 16 year old to a life without redemption,” he said. “So we proposed a law that could raise the age that would take 16 and 17 year olds who are non-violent, treat them in family court and get them into a different facility while they’re still young enough to learn a different way.”
But the legislature is not on board, yet. Cuomo said the main point of contention is determining what offenses should be classified as non-violent. Nunez has a message for them.
“Just, like, hinders their ability to develop as a regular human person being, you know, it hinders the way they integrate with people in society,” he said.
Raise the Age is one of several issues the legislature is considering as session comes to an end. There’s also the education tax credit and property tax relief.
“People don’t focus until the end of the day,” Cuomo said. “And on the controversial issues, they’d rather not get involved if they don’t have to. But my job is to push them to get involved and come up with a resolution.”
Session ends June 17.