Kevin VeseyApr 10, 2017, 9:24 pm

NY raises age of criminal responsibility to 18 to stop the school-to-prison cycle

Governor Cuomo, a strong supporter of the move, signed the measure that he says will stop practice that does more harm than good

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Another feature of the state budget that Governor Cuomo signed on Monday changes the state's justice system, raising the age to be charged as an adult to 18

"We're going to stop the cycle,” Cuomo said while celebrating the landmark legislation.

From now on, 16 and 17-year-olds statewide will no longer be treated like adults by the criminal justice system, a practice the governor said does more harm than good.

"With these predators who you have in these jails, you're going to send a 16-year-old baby into the same situation,” Cuomo said. “And then you're going to be surprised when they're victimized and hardened and hurt, and they come out worse than they went in."

New York had been one of only two states nationwide that prosecuted people under the age of 18 as adults with the other being North Carolina.

Advocates had long argued that the practice unfairly affected poor, minority communities.

Dathonie Pinto's son was sent to jail at the age of sixteen - and she says he has not been the same since.

"It was very traumatizing. The day after he got out I sent him back to school and he couldn't tolerate school. He dropped out. We had to get him a psychiatrist. He ended up with post traumatic syndrome," Pinto said.

The new law also means that offenders under the age of 18 will not wind up with criminal records, as long as they stay out of trouble.

Doctor Jenny Bencardino volunteers at the Nassau County Juvenile Detention Center helping convicted minors find positive outlets through sports. She believes giving kids a second chance is a step in the right direction.

"If you give them positive reinforcement and positive feedback, you can get them to turn their lives around, even if they committed a crime," Dr. Bencardino said.

Governor Cuomo said the state will also seal the records of minors who've committed crimes over the last 10 years—an estimated 12,000 people who will be given a second chance.

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