The Assembly Majority began the 2017 legislative session with a promise to fight for a 21st century criminal justice system. We need a system that is fair, transparent and which upholds the assurance of equal protection and all of the other indelible rights afforded under the Constitution. For me, as Speaker of the New York State Assembly and as a father, there is no greater legislative priority.
We have a moral obligation to confront the faults in a system that exacerbates economic and racial disparities, disproportionately affects poor individuals and communities and leaves the most vulnerable among us on a permanent track against success and toward certain hardship.
Families deserve better.
In an effort to give New Yorkers a system that is beyond reproach in its application of justice, the Assembly Majority will take up and pass a package of criminal justice reform bills.
There are 12 bills in this package because we believe that fairness cannot be achieved in a piecemeal fashion. Several of the proposals have passed the Assembly in previous years, including measures to Raise the Age.
Today 16 and 17 year olds are still being sentenced to adult correctional facilities where we know they do not belong. Today we will pass a measure to move these cases to Family Court. We must work with our partners in government to enact this bill THIS SESSION. The Assembly Majority is committed to giving young people the intervention and guidance they need so they can be productive members of society.
We have worked countless hours with our citizens, advocate groups and public servants on all of these critical proposals to ensure that they are thoughtful and responsive solutions to the challenges we face.
I would like to thank all of the bill sponsors: Jeff Aubry; Rodneyse Bichotte; Michael Blake; Danny O'Donnell; Crystal Peoples-Stokes; Nick Perry; and Diana Richardson; and all of the members of the Assembly Majority for their support of these measures.
I would especially like to thank our chair of the Codes committee, Assemblymember Joe Lentol who has spent many years in service to this body and to the people of this state by fighting for common sense and progressive criminal justice reforms.
I would also like to thank Families Together of New York State and our community partners who have advocated for these critical measures including: Children's Defense Fund; NYS Defenders' Association; Drug Policy Alliance; Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice; JustLeadershipUSA; Westchester Children's Association; and Youth Represent.
These measures will bring improvements across the full spectrum of justice by raising the age of criminal responsibility, taking steps to increase accountability in policing, and offer transparency in grand jury proceedings.
Other bills would ensure constitutional protections in pre-trial procedures, promote accessibility to bail for indigent offenders, limit the use of solitary confinement and "ban the box" to give past offenders a chance to successfully re-enter society post-incarceration.
The package would advance our longstanding efforts to give offenders with substance dependencies the treatment they need, instead of harsh and ineffective punishments.
Being poor is not a crime but we must acknowledge that until opportunities for success become the rule instead of the exception, our state and our families will never reach their true potential.
I will now turn it over to Assemblymember Joe Lentol who will be followed by: Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes who is also one of today's bill sponsors, Paige Pierce, CEO of Families Together of New York; and advocate Jim St. Germain.