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“Because I’m 16”

New York is the only state other than North Carolina that prosecutes youth as adults when they turn 16. According to Raise the Age NY, an advocacy campaign for increasing the age of criminal responsibility:

Nearly 50,000 16- and 17-year-olds are arrested and face the possibility of prosecution as adults in criminal court each year – the vast majority for minor crimes (75.3% are misdemeanors).

Furthermore, more than 600 children ages 13 to 15 are also prosecuted in adult criminal courts –seriously diminishing their life prospects before they’ve even entered high school.

Over 70% of the children and youth arrested are black or Latino.  Of those sentenced to incarceration, 80% are black and Latino.

On their own, the statistics above are disturbing, painting a bleak picture of a system that is misaligned with science around adolescent development and the experiences of so many, including policy makers, who remember being young, impulsive, and rebellious. When paired with the voices of young people and the exposure of the hypocrisy evident in laws governing youth behavior, as in a recent PSA from the New York Center for Juvenile Justice, the statistics take on an even more penetrating message.

Because I’m 16, I can’t drive at night.

Because I’m 16, I can’t get a cell phone without my parents.

Because I’m 16, I can’t get a flu shot without my mother’s consent.

At 16, I’m not allowed to watch an R-rated movie alone.

Because I’m 16, I can’t sit on a jury, but I can be tried as an adult.

Listen to these young people making the case for “Judging Children as Children.”

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