The Criminal Justice Response to 16- and 17-Year-Old Defendants in New York, a new study from researchers at the Center for Court Innovation, documents how the justice system handles 16- and 17-year-old defendants across New York State.
The report also examines the Adolescent Diversion Program, an initiative launched by New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to improve outcomes for this population.
New York is one of only two states that define 16- and 17-year-old defendants as criminally responsible adults. This policy exposes young people to long-term consequences, such as criminal conviction, incarceration, and reduced employment prospects. The study documents that four percent of misdemeanor cases, 16 percent of nonviolent felonies, and 19 percent of violent felonies ended in a criminal conviction and a permanent criminal record. The report also examines risk factors for re-arrest, finding that male adolescents and those with multiple prior arrests are especially likely to re-offend.
As an alternative to business as usual, the Adolescent Diversion Program seeks to offer age-appropriate services to 16- and 17-year-olds in nine pilot sites. To measure the initiative's impact, Center for Court Innovation researchers compared Adolescent Diversion Program participants to a matched comparison sample that was arrested before the program started. They found that the Adolescent Diversion Program did not jeopardize public safety. In fact, Adolescent Diversion Program participation tended to reduce the likelihood of a felony re-arrest. These positive effects were especially evident among those young people who were most likely to be repeat offenders. In addition, most of the pilot sites reduced the use of incarceration.
The research, which was supported by a grant from the New York Community Trust, includes a set of policy recommendations for officials contemplating raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York. These recommendations include: ensuring that reforms incorporate felony defendants, providing for evidence-based risk and needs assessments, focusing on high-risk defendants, and avoiding intensive interventions with low-risk youth.
To read a fact sheet about the research, click here.
To read the full study, click here.