by Jeffrey A. Butts and John Roman
On July 15, 2015, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice announced a series of reforms designed to make the criminal justice system less punitive and less permanent for young adults ages 16 to 25.
In criminal justice at least, the city leads the state. Earlier this year and after much discussion, New York State failed to “raise the age” of criminal jurisdiction from 16 to 18. New York remains one of only two states that by default treats 16 year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. A few other states treat 17 year-olds as adults, but all other states set the 18th birthday as the boundary.
Passage of this needed reform would have been a welcome change, but it would have missed a larger and more important point.
Adolescence does not end with a single birthday and it lasts well beyond the point of legal adulthood.