Byrnes: Let’s Fix Raise The Age Once And For All

Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes (R,C-Caledonia) joined Leader Will Barclay (R,C-Pulaski), members of the Assembly Minority Conference, as well as district attorneys and law enforcement, to announce their support for new legislation that will reform Raise the Age to ensure all violent felony offenses be remanded to the Youth Part of Superior Court instead of considered in family court, among other reforms.

“Essentially, this will reverse the negative impact Raise the Age has had on families, businesses, communities and individuals. While no one ever wanted Raise the Age to hurt the teenagers advocates aimed to protect, it did. Gangs and drug dealers have been preying on them for recruits, and we’ve seen it right here in our own area,” said Byrnes. “From carjackings to the violence in and around Rochester, we all have been impacted because there is no accountability. Bail reform is bad enough, but Raise the Age took away permanent records, it gave anonymity, it supported that revolving door for criminal behavior. It has to be reformed, and it should be done now.”

As a former judge in Rochester, Byrnes said it is crucial any criminal justice laws are clearly defined. However, one of the largest problems with the existing Raise the Age statutes are their lack of clarity, particularly is regards to “aggravating” circumstances standards. This is the defining standard wherein it is decided whether a defendant is processed in either the Youth Part of Superior Court or family court.

This distinction is essential because data collected since Raise the Age was first enacted in 2018 has shown a sharp drop off in how young adult offenders (those 16- and 17-year-olds impacted by Raise the Age) are convicted as opposed to an increase in arrests. For example, in 2021 only 9% of adolescent offenders arrested for a felony received a felony conviction. However, 83% were moved to family court instead. This includes 112 individuals arrested for homicide, 80 for felony sexual offenses and 587 for felony crimes involving firearms and other dangerous weapons.

Byrnes said, “This is unacceptable.”