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The Foundation Co-signs Letter To New York State Officials Encouraging “raise The Age” Reforms

Along with several other New York-based philanthropic organizations, we signed onto a letter encouraging New York State lawmakers to consider raising the age of criminal responsibility in accordance with federal law.

Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of the State of New York
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Honorable John J Flanagan
Senate Majority Leader
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Honorable Carl Heastie
Assembly Speaker
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Heastie:

We are writing as funders with over a hundred years of collective experience on juvenile justice issues.  We’re excited that this year’s adopted budget includes funding to implement reforms to the juvenile justice system and “raise the age” at which youth are charged as adults.  This is greatly needed and it is needed now.

We have seen many states grappling with the question of how to deal most effectively with juvenile crime.  Almost all of them have come to the same conclusion: adolescents are children, and prosecuting and placing them in the adult criminal justice system harms them and doesn’t work for public safety.  In fact, only New York and North Carolina put 16- and 17-year-olds through the adult criminal justice system, no matter the charge.
Any solution to this problem must be broader than simply getting youth out of adult prisons and jails–already Federal law.

Youth respond well to positive interventions because their brains are still developing.  Research has overwhelmingly proven that these interventions move them onto a productive path, whereas negative interventions—like going through the adult criminal justice system—can put them on a path to a life of crime.

We have worked to fund programs that support young people—programs that offer intensive counseling, drug treatment, educational and positive youth development, and support for families. None of these are available in the adult criminal justice system.

We urge you to consider seriously what has already been proven to work as you develop final legislation to raise the age.

The tragic death of Kalief Browder, who was arrested at 16 years old and spent three years of his young life in Rikers for allegedly stealing a book bag, is a painful reminder to us all that our children’s lives literally depend on what we do now.

We welcome the opportunity to sit down with you to share what we have learned from our work in this area. We are wholly committed to continuing to support life-saving positive interventions for children, which we can do effectively if the state does what is needed.

Cecilia Clarke                                                   Julie Peterson
President & CEO                                             Program Officer
Brooklyn Community Foundation              Pinkerton Foundation

Penny Wilgerodt                                             Cavin Leeman
Executive Director                                          President
Prospect Hill Foundation                              Stephen & May Cavin Leeman Foundation

Maria Mattola                                                  Sol Marie Jones
Executive Director                                          Senior Program Officer
New York Foundation                                    Long Island Community Foundation

Elizabeth Wachs                                              Leticia Peguero
President                                                           Executive Director
Wachs Family Foundation                            Andrus Family Fund

Lisa Bing, Chair                                               Cali Brooks
Board of Governors                                         Executive Director
Concord ChristFund                                       Adirondack Foundation

Peter Sills                                                          Amy Freitag
Treasurer                                                          Executive Director
Sills Family Foundation                                J.M. Kaplan Fund

Jacki Mann                                                     Emily Tow Jackson
President                                                         Executive Director
Elias Foundation                                           Tow Foundation

Leslie Gimbel
President & CEO
Bernard F. and Alva B. Gimbel Foundation

Lukas Haynes
Executive Director
David Rockefeller Fund