Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Raise the Age" Bill Sharpens the Damaging Distinction Between People Convicted of "Nonviolent" and "Violent" Offenses

Finally, state actors are being pushed to address the collateral consequences of the behemoth that is the American carceral state. The same bipartisan consensus that saw more prisons and jails as a solution to the growing capitalist crisis of the 1970s is today seeking to reduce incarceration through a focus on economic cost cutting. In New York, recent reforms like "Raise the Age" are indications of the effort to build a more "efficient" and "effective" criminal legal system, which of course, doesn't address the role that criminalization plays in managing the urban poor, especially in the face of increasing economic insecurity and the crisis of a jobless future that confronts our youth. On April 10, after years of stalling in the state legislature, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has finally signed into law the "Raise the Age" legislation that extends the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years of age. The State Assembly approved the bill by 81-40 votes, and it will move all cases involving 16- and 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanor and nonviolent felony cases to Family Court. New York is one of two states (the other being North Carolina) to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. While liberals are celebrating the passage of this bill, as South Bronx residents who are actively involved in building collective power in our neighborhoods to challenge the institutions that exploit us, we see this bill as a toothless reform which does not really address the state actors who are actively involved in the criminalization of our youth: the police and the prosecutors.

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