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New York Judge: Juvenile System Needs Reform

New York Judge: Juvenile System Needs Reform

Tuesday, Nov, 19, 2019 04:30PM

Earning a criminal justice degree may afford students new opportunities in New York, where a judge is calling for a milder approach to 16- and 17-year old juvenile defendants. The state tries juveniles that age as adults in criminal courts, according to the New York Times.

Judge Jonathan Lippman proposes that cases involving the juveniles be transferred to family courts, which have more social services. The most violent juveniles would continue to be tried as adults.

The roles of judges, prosecutors, correction and probation officers in city and state agencies would change, as the plan would likely require more money for social services and the court system, according to the Times.

New York and North Carolina are the only states that try 16-year-old as adults, but North Carolina lawmakers introduced legislation this year to move the cases to juvenile court. New York's Family Court has a wide range of powers to take action in the lives of children, parents and spouses. The court can hear certain types of cases, and there are no juries.

Lippman's proposal would need approval from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the state legislature. The newspaper speculates that the senate's Republican majority favors stricter criminal justice measures and may be hesitant to approve the proposal.

The New York State Bar Association supports the move, because each year 45,000 to 50,000 youths aged 16 and 17 are prosecuted as adults for minor crimes.

"Research demonstrates that 16- and 17-year-old kids lack the maturity and judgment to understand the legal consequences of their actions," said Seymour James Jr. , president elect of the state bar association. "Additionally, children who are incarcerated in adult jails are more likely to commit crimes again. The consequences of being convicted of a nonviolent crime can last a lifetime, affecting an individual's future education and employment."

In the meantime, Lippman plans to put in place a pilot program that would transfer cases of nonviolent offenders younger than 18 to criminal courts with new adolescent intervention programs.

"Put simply, the adult criminal justice system is not designed to address the special problems and needs of 16- and 17-year-olds," Lippman said in a speech to the Citizens Crime Commission in New York City. "Prosecuting these adolescents as adults in the criminal courts does not improve public safety or quality of life in our communities." 

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