A measure to stop treating 16- and 17-year olds as adults in criminal courts faces a critical juncture in negotiations early this week.

The “raise the age” bill is strongly supported by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Assembly’s Democratic majority. The bill is part of negotiations for the state budget, which is due to be approved by Saturday.

The measure needs to gain approval or it will have to be dropped from the negotiating table soon if the leaders are to come to agreement on the $162 billion budget by the deadline.

Supporters of the bill say cases against youths should be heard in Family Court. The goal would be to give them a new direction, and avoid sending them to prison with hardened criminals.

Three organizations of social workers plan a rally in Albany Tuesday for raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18, and will say the current system leads to higher recidivism.

But during a floor debate last week, Assemb. Al Graf (R-Holbrook) said, “what you call ‘raise the age’ I call the gang recruitment act. This is a great tool to be able to recruit younger members of our community to enter gangs.”

Members of the Senate’s Republican majority haven’t said much publicly about the bill, which they oppose. But they have continued negotiations that could lead to a compromise.

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Michael Gormley