(NewsNation) — A New York law, dubbed the “Raise the Age Law,” was designed to prevent juvenile crime offenders from being unfairly tried as adults, with the idea that children would go through family court instead of criminal court, thereby receiving services and support rather than punishment, and making it more likely for them to become law-obeying adults.
But critics of the law, including Albany District Attorney David Soares, say all it has done is enable juveniles to commit crimes free of consequences, knowing they will not be sent to prison or jail.
“That is absurd when a person is in front of you with repeated offenses for gun crimes,” Soares said in a press conference.
The incident that reignited the debate over the law happened in a New York City subway station, where a 16-year-old boy was stopped by police hopping a subway turnstile. The boy got into a physical altercation with the officer, punching and throwing him to the ground.
The boy was released from jail the same day of the incident; it turned out he had been arrested just days earlier for robbery, and before that for being caught with a loaded weapon.
Proponents of the law still contend it works at preventing children from being introduced to the harsh realities of the adult criminal justice system early in life, while there is still time to change their ways.
“Why don’t we let these kids stay at home, maybe finish high school, maybe turn their lives around under the watchful eye of the system we have set up?” defense attorney Lee Kindlon said.
The head of New York’s police union was outraged at the boy’s release from jail, blaming that incident and others like it for why New York’s transit system continues to see an increase in crime.
“The criminals underground know they can get in a brawl, choke a cop and be back out in hours,” the tweet read.
A study by the New York Criminal Justice Agency showed the rearrest rate for 16-year-olds was 48% in 2019, compared to just 39% in 2018.
“How do we keep our city safe when the other parts of the criminal justice system, they have abandoned our public safety apparatus?” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said.