Youth Justice

In April 2017 Governor Cuomo signed legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York. On October 1, 2018 the automatic age of adult prosecution will be raised to 17 years old and on October 1, 2019 the age will be further raised to 18 years old. Raising the age of criminal responsibility is one of the most important ways in which we can improve New York State’s response to youth who are accused of committing crimes. Through ongoing advocacy and analysis of policies impacting justice involved youth, we work towards our goal of ensuring all youth are treated in age-appropriate ways by the justice system. While the vast majority of system involved youth are boys, CDF-NY additionally pays close attention to the needs of justice-involved girls with specific consideration of the experiences of LGBTQ youth, by advocating for appropriate policies, supports and interventions. 

Through its Youth Justice work, CDF-NY aims to decrease the disproportionate number of youth of color that are involved in the justice system and to ensure that those who are involved are treated in age-appropriate ways that meet their rehabilitative needs, ensure their safety while in the system and decrease the likelihood that they will re-enter it in the future.

Youth Charged as Adults

New York recently raised the age of criminal responsibility, after years of advocacy to bring the state in line with the rest of the country.  Prior to the passage of this critical legislation, New York and North Carolina were the only two states to arrest and prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, regardless of the severity of the offense. 

CDF-NY is a lead in the Raise the Age–New York Campaign which successfully advocated for comprehensive legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility and continues to ensure appropriate implementation of the law. CDF-NY’s efforts also include advocating for youth currently impacted by the adult justice system and incarcerated in adult correctional settings. In addition to the recent significant success in raising the age of criminal responsibility, other recent successes include the removal of 16-21 year-olds from solitary confinement in New York City jails.  

Older Youth & Young Adult Justice

CDF-NY’s advocacy includes considering the unique needs of justice system involved older youth and young adults and ensuring they receive appropriate supports to adequately address their needs and prevent re-entry into the justice system. This advocacy also encompasses efforts to improve conditions for adolescents and young adults in adult correctional settings, including removing youth from harmful segregation practices, such as solitary confinement, and improving age-appropriate programming for older youth and young adults in adult correctional settings. 

Juvenile Justice Advocacy

CDF-NY advocates for youth charged with juvenile delinquency to ensure they are provided interventions and resources to adequately address their needs and prevent re-entry. We monitor the roll-out and implementation of the Close to Home Initiative, a program which allows youth from New York City to reside in small juvenile justice settings in and near New York City when placed outside of the home by the Family Court.  Prior to the Close to Home Initiative, youth were placed in settings outside of New York City which posed significant barriers to family visitation, resulted in inadequate educational credit attainment and which had documented histories of inadequate conditions for youth. CDF-NY is a member of multiple Coalitions throughout the city and state with focused efforts addressing conditions of confinement for youth in juvenile detention and placement, the specific needs of LGBTQ system-impacted youth, and decreasing the incarceration of girls and young women. 

Publications, Testimony & Resources

Testimony on Educational Services for Detained Placed and Incarcerated Youth.pdf

November 30, 2016

New York State Assembly Hearing on Criminal Justice May 2015

Assembly Standing Committee on Codes Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary Assembly Standing Committee on Correction New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus

May 7, 2015

City Budget Testimony 2015

March 24, 2015

CDF-NY Public Protection Hearing Testimony

FY2015 Joint Legislative Hearing on Public Protection 2015-2016 Executive Budget Proposal

February 26, 2015

CDF-NY’s Testimony on FY2015 Budget Provisions Related to Human Services

FY2015 Joint Legislative Hearing on Human Services 2015 - 2016 Executive Budget Proposal

February 14, 2015

Public Hearing on Proposed Rule Regarding Enhanced Supervision Housing

December 19, 2014

Board of Correction ESHU Dec 2014

December 19, 2014

Fire and Criminal Justice Services, and Juvenile Justice Testimony

October 8, 2014

Solitary Confinement Testimony NYS Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights

July 10, 2014

City Council Testimony: Young Women in New York City’s Juvenile Justice System

June 17, 2014

Violence at Rikers Testimony June 2014

June 12, 2014

Close to Home Initiative Non Secure Placement Hearing Testimony

The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start , a Head Start , a Fair Start , a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

May 8, 2012

Raising New York’s Age of Criminal Responsibility

December 31, 2011

Youth and Community Justice Tool-Kit

Policy failures in these area have long-term effects on youth and communities. However, youth and community voices are often missing at decision making tables. We firmly believe that those who are most affected by policy successes or failures are the best advocates for change in our communities. Recognizing the proverbial “full plates” that educators must balance, we compiled this Youth and Community Justice Tool-kit to offer educators easily-accessible information and interactive ways to teach it to their young people.

January 1, 2011

New DC Juvenile Facility

Fenty's efforts and Schiraldi's operational philosophy have now come together to produce a dramatic new 60-bed center, the District of Columbia New Beginnings Youth Development Center, in Laurel, Maryland.

May 1, 2009

Characteristics of Youth in Facilities

Youth demographics in New York State Of Children and Family Services

December 31, 2008

State of New York's Children

April 1, 2008

Inmates Strut Their Stuff

Now, at Oak Hill, where he least expected it, he has a new kind of opportunity: When he finishes talking to me, Anthony dons a robe of glorious colors, takes the stage and seeks to guide Macbeth away from evil: "Merciful powers, restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature gives way to in repose!"

March 15, 2007

Raise the Age Toolkit

Call For Youth Justice

The Call for Youth Justice mapping report was written to provide a striking, visual tool in furtherance of CDF-NY’s ever-evolving mission to holistically meet the needs of children and families in communities losing young ones daily to the cradle-to-prison pipeline. The maps speak volumes. They make plain the multi-headed hydra of issues targeting youth and devastating communities. The pages also clarify the need for expanded advocacy and organizing strategies that do not solely respond to the policy decrees and failures from City Hall and Albany, but that direct and guide elected officials while simultaneously empowering communities to develop and implement solutions for children and families.