ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – New York’s Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan says raise the age legislation will be key this session for his conference.
The Assembly’s passed a bill that would send 16 and 17 year olds to juvenile centers rather than adult prisons which is current law.
“I’m a father, a tax paying citizen instead of a tax burden on taxpayers,” Jim St. Germain said.
St. Germain says he’s lucky to be telling his story today in a suit behind a podium.
Instead of the alternative orange jumpsuit and jail cell, re-living his mistakes.
“I was having run-ins with the law and started hustling and selling drugs at the age of 14 as a way of trying to help my grandmother pay the rent.”
At 15, two class D felonies sent him to a Brooklyn juvenile detention center for a year. He ended up serving two due to bad behavior.
Had Germain been arrested just four months later, at 16, he would’ve been charged as an adult and likely served much longer.
“I would not be standing here today if I did not go through the juvenile justice system.”
St. Germain credits mentoring in the juvenile system that turned his focus toward education, allowing him to earn his GED and later, a bachelor’s in political science.
Now he’s urging lawmakers to give other teens that second chance.
“In the adult system you’re basically just warehoused, the individuals there and unfortunately learn just how to become better criminals.”
It comes down to a simple question for the 27-year-old.
“What would you rather have your tax dollars do, give young people who’ve made mistakes an opportunity to be where I am today or would you rather further punish these young people and further push them through the criminal justice system by charging them as an adult.”
He hopes lawmakers do not waste this opportunity to give young kids like him, a second chance.
“I was no better than them at their age, it’s just that I got an opportunity many of them was not given.”
St. Germain spent three years back at the juvenile detention center he spent time in as residential advocate and runs his own non-profit. He’s also set to release a memoir this July.