Debate over ‘Raise the Age’ lingers as juvenile gun cases soar

Gaps in the juvenile justice system may be leading to increases in shootings and gun cases involving teenagers.

Brendan J. Lyons
Albany Times Union
April 2, 2023

… At a legislative hearing in late January, New York Police Department Chief Jeffrey B. Maddrey told lawmakers that since 2017 the number of juvenile shooting victims in that city has doubled and the number of juveniles identified as shooters had increased about 156 percent.

… “There is a failure of programming for young people to do what Raise the Age was supposed to do, which was to provide counseling, support, education, training for young people, recognizing the science — which has not changed — that young people are still works in progress and that they are able to change,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “There’s a glaring failure to even use the money that was allocated to provide services for young people in trouble. They’re not going to fix themselves.”

… But just as dueling data points have engulfed the debates about New York’s bail laws, supporters of Raise the Age contend that no changes are necessary. The NYCLU pointed to a February report issued by John Jay College of Criminal Justice that sought to answer the question of whether violence among youth under 18 changed after the statute was changed.

Jeffrey Butts, a research professor at the school, said their analysis “would suggest that Raise the Age did not introduce new risks to public safety.” “The key is comparing the age groups over time, not simply looking at crime trends over time. Unfortunately, Raise the Age came into being just before the entire world of crime and justice changed in 2020 and 2021. If you just look at recidivism without accounting for that general environmental disruption, you’re not conducting research — you’re counting stuff. … But, to draw causal inferences that way is irresponsible.”

… John Jay’s research determined that recent increases in violence should not be attributed to Raise the Age, and that youth under 18 account for a small portion of violent offenses.

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Albany Times Union