Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Independent Democratic Conference & Advocates to City: Clock is ticking to take our kids off Rikers Island; IDC celebrates passage of Raise the Age and urges City to plan quickly

IDC celebrates passage of Raise the Age and urges City to plan quickly

Senators Jeff Klein, Jesse Hamilton, Jose Peralta, Tony Avella, Diane Savino, Marisol Alcantara, joined by Akeem Browder and criminal justice advocates, called on the city to plan to remove juveniles from Rikers Island within a year as required by recently passed Raise the Age legislation

The new legislation requires the city to remove all 16- and 17-year-olds currently held at Rikers Island to specialized juvenile detention facilities by April 1, 2018, to the extent practicable, but no later than October 1, 2018.

“This year’s passage of Raise the Age comes with an especially important aspect that will ensure that 16- and 17-year-olds are removed from Rikers Island as quickly as possible. Though there have been reforms there is no question that the best course of action to protect young vulnerable New Yorkers is to keep them off Rikers Island. By moving them into appropriate facilities we can focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration,” said Senator Jeff Klein.

“Passing Raise the Age took our collective determination. Determination that young people receive the opportunity to get on the right track and become productive New Yorkers. Determination that our justice system turn away from an unjust and unwise course and turn towards compassion and common sense. And determination that we honor the victims of a system that brutalized our fellow New Yorkers, like Lywan Reed, and honor the memory of those who we have lost, like Kalief Browder. We take that same determination and turn it toward seeing Raise the Age through in full. That means insisting that the City honor the timeline our legislation sets out and remove 16- and 17-year-olds from Rikers within the next 12 months. Raise the Age is an important milestone, we remain focused on the milestones ahead and upholding values that will make for a more just justice system in New York State,” said Senator Jesse Hamilton.

“Violence seems to be the common denominator at Rikers Island. The jail complex is a harsh environment for anyone, and this is particularly true for 16- and 17-year-olds. I am very glad that we, at the Independent Democratic Conference, were able to deliver Raise the Age in this year’s budget. Under the agreement, teenagers who are currently jailed in the troubled facilities will have to be transferred within one year to age appropriate facilities. In 2017, there is no excuse to incarcerate adolescents with adults, especially 16- and 17-year-olds who are simply awaiting trial,” said Senator Jose Peralta.

“As the Chairman of the Committee on Children & Families, I made Raise the Age my top priority and vowed that this would be the year we accomplished it. After holding the first public hearing dedicated solely to this issue and hearing testimony from every side of the justice system I knew this was something that needed to happen immediately. I am incredibly proud of the IDC for working to get Raise the Age included in this year’s budget and not allowing it to fall by the wayside. Getting children off Rikers Island is a great first step in instituting this legislation. I cannot wait to see the lives of families across the state improved as a result of raising the age,” said Senator Tony Avella.

“Since I first started advocating for Raise the Age in 2011 it has been far too long that youthful offenders found themselves in the adult criminal justice system. It is our responsibility to give our youth a fighting chance for their future, and this starts with removing 16- and 17-year-olds from Rikers Island as quickly as possible. In this year's budget, we took the first steps in ensuring we change lives for the better and I will continue to advocate for reforms that do so,” said Senator Diane Savino.

“I am proud of my role in finally Raising the Age of criminal responsibility in New York. Out of all the achievements in the state budget, this one is close to my heart. It is especially important to me that the budget contains a first step to closing Rikers Island. Moving current 16- and 17-year-old inmates to a juvenile detention center by 2018 will show advocates and our communities that New York is serious about reforming a criminal justice system that can be cruel, arbitrary, and disproportionately harsh to people of color,” said Senator Marisol Alcantara.

The treatment of 16- and 17-year-olds on Rikers Island has recently come under fire from advocates and prosecutors. A 2014 report by United States Attorney Preet Bharara found that those under 18 experienced 1,057 injuries.

Currently, there are approximately 150 children incarcerated at Rikers Island each day.

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