Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol today announced that the Assembly's SFY 2017-18 Budget includes funding for vital criminal justice reforms, including legislation to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility for most offenses from 16 to 18.
"As I have said, there is no higher priority for me than raising the age of adult criminal responsibility in New York State," said Speaker Heastie. "An effective criminal justice system that reduces crime and recidivism can present fiscal challenges, but the Assembly Majority's budget proposal includes legislation and appropriations that address these challenges and bring our state's criminal justice practices into the 21st century."
"Most New Yorkers recognize that adult criminal courts and processes are generally not appropriate for teenagers," said Assemblymember Lentol. "Our budget proposal includes funds for supervision, substance abuse treatment and family services designed to confront developmental problems and direct teens to a law-abiding life."
The Assembly spending plan includes an additional $5 million for capital improvements to local detention facilities to accommodate implementation of raise the age legislation. The funds would help increase capacity and address some of the costs of operating these facilities in the state. The proposal would also provide 100 percent state reimbursement to counties for any unfunded costs generated for county services, probation, voluntary programs and the like.
The Assembly budget also includes provisions designed to modernize investigative procedures and eyewitness protocols. These changes will prevent erroneous accusations and wrongful convictions. Under this legislation, interrogations at police stations would be recorded during investigations involving certain serious crimes and identification procedures, such as line-ups and photo arrays, would be conducted using established best practices.
In addition to legislation and funding to raise the age and modernize investigative procedures, the Assembly's budget includes a wide range of criminal justice-related appropriations, including:
- $122 million for support of civil and criminal legal service grants, including domestic violence and immigrant legal services;
- $2.08 million for the New York State Defenders Association;
- $25.9 million to support Alternative to Incarceration and reentry programs;
- $4.8 million for Operation SNUG, a gun violence prevention program; and
- $54.8 million for probation aid, including $10 million for costs related to implementation of raise the age.
In addition, the Assembly's budget legislation includes a provision to decriminalize public possession of a small quantity of marijuana. This long-overdue measure would end the current practice of branding such minor offenders with a life-long criminal record. This legislation would also seal records concerning old convictions for marijuana possession, thereby improving the chances that individuals can obtain gainful employment and move ahead to a successful, productive life.