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LI clergy pushes Senate to take youths out of adult trials

ALBANY — Long Island clergy on Tuesday resumed their push to get the Senate’s Republican majority to agree to “raise the age” so that 16- and 17-year-olds would not be tried for violent crimes as adults.

“We are here because we want to see New York give its youth a second chance,” said the Rev. Margaret A. Allen, one of 36 clergy members from Long Island who released a letter Tuesday to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport). “Charging youth as adults forces these children to grow up fast, and not in a good way.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Assembly’s Democratic majority has proposed the “raise the age” law. New York is one of just two states that automatically prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults for serious crimes. If convicted, these youths could be sent to the general prison population.

It’s going to be a hard sell in the Senate’s Republican majority, but that may just up the ante for deal-making on legislation for the rest of the session, which is scheduled to end June 16. Senate Republicans dropped it from negotiations for a state budget deal, which was voted into law Friday.

“We don’t think that’s good public policy because in essence what they’re trying to do is absolve people from violent and heinous and felonious crimes,” Flanagan said at the state Republican convention in Buffalo this year. “That’s not a way we think we should be going.”

The measure would require most teenagers convicted of many, but not all, violent and other serious felonies to be treated as minors, which can include a youth or family court venue and juvenile incarceration rather than in general prisons, according to the Raise the Age Campaign.

“The vast majority of crimes committed by youth are misdemeanors and notably, under this proposal, the most serious crimes would continue to be handled in the criminal court system and all youth would be held accountable for their actions,” said Jennifer March, executive director of the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York.

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