New York State has long dealt with 16- and 17-year-old defendants more severely than almost every other state, trying all of them as adults in criminal courts. Now, state chief judge Jonathan Lippman is calling for a less punitive approach that would focus on finding ways to rehabilitate them, reports the New York Times. Lippman wants the state to send 16- and 17-year-olds accused of less serious crimes to family courts, which have more social services, continuing to prosecute the most violent juveniles as adults.
The plan reflects an emerging consensus in many states that troubled teenagers have been mishandled by the adult court system. If the state adopts the plan, it most likely must allocate more money for social services and for the court system, which is overburdened. The roles of judges, prosecutors, correction and probation officers and many others would change. “I think it's complex but feasible,” said Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, administrative judge for New York City Family Court, which would have to handle tens of thousands more cases each year under the plan. Lippman's idea needs legislative and gubernatorial approval.