Youth In Prison

The decision to eliminate solitary confinement for 16- and 17-year-olds at Rikers Island is a step in the right direction, but is not a sufficient solution for the thousands of adolescents held in adult facilities statewide. New York and North Carolina are the only states that automatically prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds in adult courts. These teens do not receive the mental and social care they need to improve, but are instead subject to systemic violence that hampers their chances for success and achievement in the future. Forgiveness, mercy and showing respect for our fellow human beings are part of the core values of our country. The current system fails thousands of children per year by failing to treat them in accordance with these basic values. Improvements to Rikers are not enough to save the teens still facing adult incarceration and with it the threat of solitary confinement and other abuses. This year Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a commission to examine how to modernize the juvenile justice system to meet the needs of children and our communities. These changes must include provisions to raise the age of criminal responsibility, ensuring that our justice system provides for humane treatment of marginalized youth.

—Sharon Dashow

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