"Raise the Age" in New York. Advocates are campaigning to no longer allow 16 and 17 year olds to be treated as adults in the criminal justice system regardless of the crime. YNN's Karen Tararache reports.
ALBANY, N. Y. -- Speaking on behalf of a family member whose identity YNN has chosen to protect, she recalls how the young boy was sexually abused during his 18 month stay in prison and now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.
"At the age of 16, he was arrested for allegedly stealing Chinese food from a delivery car at the encouragement from his so called friends. This system took something from him that he will never ever get back."
And it's that system advocates of "Raise the Age" are trying to change.
Judge Michael A. Corriero explained, "If a 16-year-old is arrested in New York, there is no obligation on the part of the police to notify the family of that 16-year-old's arrest. Why? Because the age of criminal responsibility is 16 and they're presumed to be adults."
Presumed to be, but according to proponents of the campaign, that doesn't mean they are.
Dr. Megan Kurlychek said, "The fact is the offense they commit does not make them mature, does not make them an adult."
By raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18, family courts could handle juvenile cases and developmental services would be provided to those who needed them.
The Children's Defense Fund Executive Director, Melanie Hartzog, said, "Youth prosecuted in adult courts are 25 more times likely to return to incarceration than juveniles processed in family court for the same exact felony crime."
But keeping child in a family service program for a year could cost up to $260,000, whereas keeping them in prison for the same period of time can be somewhere around $70,000.
"It is more expensive because we're providing them with education, we're providing them with treatment so that they come out able to succeed in society," Kurlychek said.
And while District Attorney Robert Carney supports the campaign he does have some concerns.
"We can't just make a change in the law and say ok, now we're going to move these cases. Who's going to adjudicate those cases? which court is going to happen in?"