Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lippman on Juvenile Justice Reform

At a breakfast speech at the Citizens Crime Commission this morning, New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman called for New York State to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18. This would effectively transfer some 45,000 cases involving 16 and 17 year olds from criminal court to family court. From my perspective, this is one of the rare policy announcements that is simultaneously a bold move and a conservative play. It is conservative because New York has somehow gotten out of step with the rest of the country on this issue; only one other state (North Carolina) sets the age at 16 and they are apparently about to change it. So it isn't exactly a radical notion that Lippman is advancing. Having said that, every issue needs a champion and Lippman is certainly taking a valuable leadership role here. Among other things, Lippman's speech called for careful study of the financial implications of raising the age, legislative change in Albany, and the creation of pilot projects in criminal courts where judges will receive specialized training and access to enhanced sentencing options for 16 and 17 year olds. The Center will have a role in working with the courts to make these projects a reality. New York Times coverage of the speech can be found here.