Archived Initiative: Raise the Age


In April 2017, New York State passed long-awaited legislation that raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old, amending outdated laws that automatically processed 16 and 17 year olds as adults. These reforms divert the majority of cases involving adolescents directly to Family Court or to judges with access to social services and special training. This monumental change requires significant preparation and planning to develop new age-appropriate facilities and services.


Raise the Age legislation recognized that young people are different from adults and the reforms enacted help provide developmentally appropriate responses to the needs of juveniles involved in the justice system. New York City has articulated the following shared values to anchor its implementation of Raise the Age:

  1. Fairness: Justice outcomes for 16- and 17-year-olds should improve following the implementation of Raise the Age, not worsen.
  2. Safety: Detain or incarcerate children no more than necessary to preserve public safety and ensure appearance in court. Incarceration is not an appropriate response for children with challenging needs who have no place to go.
  3. Continuity: Whenever possible, ensure continuity of defense counsel, court of record, and prosecutorial agency.
  4. Speed: Remove appropriate cases from the Superior Court Youth Part to the Family Court system in a swift and timely manner.

Successful implementation requires a great deal of effort and coordination, between City agencies, the Courts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, community and neighborhood providers, as well as collaboration between the State and local government.

Reference materials
Learn more about Raise the Age
Raise the Age system process chart
Implementation Guide

Summary of the legislation
New York State presentation slides
New York State Raise the Age Local Planning Guide

Related reading
New York State Recommendations of the Governor’s Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice