Letter: LI Clergy Call on Elected Officials to Do the Right Thing & Raise The Age

April 5, 2016

 

Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor of the State of New York

NYS State Capitol Building

Albany, NY  12224

 

Honorable John Flanagan

Senate Majority Leader

NYS State Capitol Building

Albany, NY 12224

 

Honorable Carl Heastie

Assembly Speaker

NYS State Capitol Building

Albany, NY 12224

 

Dear Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Flanagan and Speaker Heastie:

 

As faith leaders from many backgrounds, traditions and beliefs, we write to you united by our great concern for the future of children in our communities. Too many are being swept up into the adult criminal justice system and getting trapped in a cycle of poverty and crime. We all know children who have faced down difficult circumstances and rebuilt their lives. But the lack of age-appropriate interventions for 16- and 17-year olds in the adult system, as well as the heightened exposure they face to violence and abuse, is making it difficult and in many cases impossible for even the most intelligent and capable teens to become productive and successful members of our communities.

 

As a state, New York is failing these children. Today, we humbly ask you to raise the age at which children are automatically charged as adults.  Currently, New York is one of two states where youth as young as 16 automatically end up in adult courts, jails and prisons.

 

Passing the raise the age proposal will enhance public safety and offer youth age-appropriate interventions (including, when necessary, incarceration).

 

In 2013, nearly 34,000 16- and 17-year olds were arrested and faced prosecution in the adult system – the vast majority for non-violent crimes. We should be better than that.

 

Adult prisons do not focus on rehabilitation, and are not designed to meet the needs of children. National studies show that young people confined in adult facilities are much more likely to face traumatic physical and sexual violence than those in juvenile facilities.

 

This lack of age-appropriate intervention and increased exposure to violence also leads to higher rates of recidivism and, as a result, higher costs for the justice system as a whole. Our current law sets young people up to become re-offenders: research has shown that young people who go through the adult system are much more likely to re-offend than those in the juvenile system.

 

From a public safety perspective, raising the age is about being both smart on crime and tough on crime – an approach that numerous law enforcement officials from around the state have endorsed. By creating a path to more positive outcomes for more children, raising the age would lead to crime reductions and help foster safer, more livable streets throughout the state.

 

Thank you for your consideration of this matter. We are ready to stand by you and move forward with this important policy change. It goes without saying that all New Yorkers will be better off under this approach.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Reverend Michelle Raysor, Connecting for Purpose

Reverend Thomas Humphrey, Long Island Men’s Center

Bishop Donald S. Hudson, Common Ground Christian Life Center

Pastor Carol A. Paynter, Smithtown United Methodist Church

Reverend Kate Jones-Calone, Setauket

Reverend Thomas Goodhue, Long Island Council of Churches

Pastor Sheila M. Bedford, Westbury United Methodist Church

Pastor Mark Musser, New Village Church

Reverend Dr. Tim Hoyt Duncan, First Presbyterian of Northport

Reverend Farrell Graves, All Souls Episcopal Church

Bishop Earnest Robinson, Long Island Breakthrough Center

Pastor Gregory Wilk, Abundant Life Church

Reverend James B. Rea, Jr., Bethany Presbyterian Church

Reverend Janice Moore-Caputo, North Shore Presbyterian Church of Great Neck

Reverend Karyn O’Beirne, Unitarian Universalist Society of South Suffolk

Pastor Frederick Woodward, First Presbyterian Church of Greenlawn

Reverend Kymberley Clemons-Jones, Valley Stream Presbyterian Church

Reverend Eddie J. Jusino, First Presbyterian Church of Freeport

Reverend Dr.Tracie Saunders, Presbytery of Long Island

Reverend Scott Williams, Christ First Presbyterian Hempstead

Reverend Mark Tammen, Presbyterian of Long Island

Reverend Kenneth Graham, Presbytery of Long Island

Reverend Charles Coverdale, First Baptist Church of Riverhead

Reverend Cynthia Liggon, First Baptist Church of Riverhead

Reverend Chuck M. Cary D. Min, Westhampton Presbyterian Church

Reverend Charles Bell, Messiah Lutheran Church

Reverend Canon Richard D. Visconti, All Souls Episcopal Church

Father Andrew Koterba, St. Francis Polish National Catholic Church

Reverend John W. Kloepper, Phd., Presbytery of Long Island

Reverend Margaret Allen, Unitarian Universalist of Stonybrook

Reverend George A. Bynoe, Int’l Dream Team Christian Association

Reverend Dr. Jimmy Hulsey, First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown

Cantor Eric Schulmiller, Reconstructionist Synagogue of North Shore

Pastor Kyle Watkins, Safe house

Pastor Alex Bryant, E.P.H.O.D Ministries

Co-Pastor Dr. Teresa Bryant, E.P.H.O.D Ministries