While signing “Raise the Age” into law, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ended New York’s status as one of two states (the other being North Carolina) that charges 16- and 17-year-olds as adults on Monday (April 10), DNAinfo reports.
Since compromising with lawmakers to include the bill in the Empire State’s budget, the politician took to Harlem where he was joined by Rev. Al Sharpton and Akeem Browder, older brother to the late Kalief Browder who spent three years on Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a backpack at the age of 16.
“This was a hard one. This was difficult to do,” Cuomo said. “We’ve been talking about this for 12 years. Every year everyone would set their hopes high and every year the bill would die.”
Rather than facing time in adult facilities, young offenders will be subject to rehabilitation and diversion programs. Juveniles’ records can also be sealed under the legislation if they commit no crimes over a 10-year period. “This [bill] says that a 16- or 17-year-old who makes a mistake is a 16-, 17-year-old that makes a mistake,” the governor continued.
According to the Associated Press, the agreement will raise the age gradually to 17 by October 2018 and 18 in 2019. However, all 16- and 17-year-olds on Rikers Island will be required to be removed under the measure according to Cuomo.
“Don’t tell me it takes 10 years to fix that abomination,” he said while taking aim at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to shut down the notorious jail complex within a decade. “It’s not Arkansas or some state in the middle of the country… it’s New York State, New York City, the most progressive capital of the world, the most liberal people in America.”