Cortland forum to discuss raising criminal age of prosecution

Featured photo: Maximum security cell block in Kingston Penitentiary in Kingston, NY/Wikimedia Commons

CORTLAND, N.Y. — Should New York State raise the age of criminal prosecution to 18?

That question will be the subject of a community forum, "Crime & Punishment: Is a 16-year-old an adult?" scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 16, from 6 - 8 p.m. at 9 Main Street in Cortland.

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New York and North Carolina are the only two states where youth offenders between the ages of 16 and 17 are prosecuted as adults.

Advocates for raising the age to 18 have argued that adolescents who are placed in the adult criminal justice system are more susceptible to physical and emotional abuse and more likely to end up incarcerated in the future.

Opponents of raising the age say youthful offenders who commit serious, violent crimes should be treated as adults. Others have cited the high cost of housing older juveniles in youth detention centers—a 2014 report commissioned by the Texas State Legislature found that housing a juvenile in a youth facility costs seven times as much as placing them in an adult facility.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he supports raising the age. A commission he established last year to examine the issue released a report in January recommending the age of criminal prosecution be increased to 18.

The New York State Legislature failed to reach an agreement on raise the age legislation earlier this year.

Speakers at the December forum, which is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Cortland County, will include Cortland Police Chief Michael Catalano, Cortland County District Attorney Mark Suben, SUNY Cortland Professor Mechthild Nagel, PhD and Cortland County Probation Director Lisa Cutia.

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