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Mary MuellerJul 18, 2017, 10:24 pm

Advocates celebrate passage of bill that stops courts from trying teens as adults

‘Raise the Age’ ensures that teens wont have life prospects diminished by adult convictions for minor offenses

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An organization that fought to raise the age at which a teen could be tried as an adult in New York celebrated their hard work on Tuesday.

The White Plains-based Westchester Children's Association claimed victory after the “Raise the Age” signed into law this past April. The legislation will stop the state from prosecuting 16 and 17-year-olds as adults.

"We are protecting them and their development and providing for young people who can grow up healthy and safe," White Plains Youth Bureau Director Frank William said.

Since 1914, the organization has been fighting to improve the lives of young people. They led the fight to get Raise the Age passed for about four years.

Advocates say the new law means thousands of 16 and 17-years-old won't be prosecuted as adults for minor crimes.

If a teen is convicted as an adult it becomes public record, diminishing their prospects for jobs or being accepted to a university before they even graduate high school.

"I am very fortunate that as a youngster I made some mistakes and I was charged as a juvenile. And I think going through the juvenile justice system really helped to change my life," said Jim St. Germain of Preparing Leaders of Tomorrow.

St. Germain is now a published author and has a mentoring organization to help young people.

“I got involved in this fight to give other young people the same opportunity. So Raise the Age is a great accomplishment and it's very personal,” he said.

Though the law will begin taking effect in October of 2018, Allison Lake, the deputy director of Westchester Children's Association says there is still more work to be done.

"Getting the legislation is just the first step, how is that going to be implemented in Westchester County?" she said.

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