This past Sunday NY lawmakers voted to raise the age of people charged and imprisoned as adults, with the decision being that teenagers under the age of 18 will no longer be tried as adults.
Although the law will not go into effect until October 2019 for 18 year-olds (and October 2018 for 17 year-olds), this means that teenagers will no longer be subjected to the traumatic and very violent experiences that occur in jails and prisons with people twice their age. The decision is a part of a $163 billion state budget that also includes a tuition-free degree program for poor middle-class students in New York.
Prior to this decision, New York was one of two states that prosecuted all 16 and 17 year-olds as adults. More than 70 percent of those arrested that are underage are black or Latinx, as are 80 percent of those who are ultimately locked up.
However, the reform is expected to impact an estimated 28,000 16 and 17-year-olds who are arrested annually, with the state now sending them to family and youth courts, and detaining them in juvenile facilities.
“Putting aside the fact that psychologists will testify that 16 and 17-year-olds often are not mentally mature, the reality of putting a 16 or 17-year-old in the same facility as hardened adult criminals is, on its face, cruel and unusual,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of the legislation.
The change comes at a time in which Kalief Browder‘s story has resurfaced thanks to the Jay Z-produced documentary series TIME: The Kalief Browder Story. A 16-year-old that was wrongfully accused of a crime that he did not commit and spent three years in prison (two of which were served at Rikers) for, the trauma that Browder endured ultimately led to him taking his own life in 2015. He was 22 years-old.