Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill preventing New York State from prosecuting children under the age of 12. The bill, proposed in 2022, prevents those aged 12 and younger from being arrested and charged for nearly all crimes.
Previously, youths aged 7 to 18 could be arrested and prosecuted as juvenile delinquents in the state of New York. The new bill raises the minimum age from 7 to 12, preventing those younger than 12 from being arrested and charged in almost all cases except homicide.
There has been much support for the passing of this bill, including praise from criminal justice reform advocates who state that children of color in particular suffer from the prior law’s parameters.
In 2019, approximately 800 children were arrested in New York State according to data collected by the Legal Aid Society, with almost 90% of the children arrested in New York City being Black or Hispanic.
Bronx State Senator Jamaal Bailey said, “When you criminalize young folks at an earlier age, they’re subjected to much more trauma, and our children, as resilient as they are as we’ve seen throughout this (COVID) pandemic, they can only bear so much.” Bailey sponsored the legislation.
Social service departments, under the new law, will now be required to create differential response programs. The programs will be for those who would have previously been charged as juvenile delinquents under the prior law. The programs will work to ensure children have access to the mental health care that they need instead of placing them into the system.