Yesterday, in his annual State of the State address, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the creation of two committees that could potentially have a significant positive impact in reforming certain aspects of the state's justice system.
In regards to the planned changes, Correctional Association Executive Director Soffiyah Elijah released a statement saying, “We’re pleased that the governor’s priorities for the coming session include the creation of two new groups that would have the opportunity to make major strides towards criminal and youth justice reform in New York State."
Specifically, Cuomo announced the creation of the Commission on Youth Justice and Public Safety. One of the major tasks of the new commission will be to raise the age at which offenders can be charged as adults. Justice reform advocates point out that children incarcerated in adult facilities are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than their counterparts who are incarcerated in juvenile facilities. They are also far more likely to reoffend than those in juvenile facilities.
The second group Cuomo created was a council on Community Reintegration and Reentry. Elijah lauded the governor's efforts with this group as well, writing, "The governor should also be commended for his announcement of a council on Community Reintegration and Reentry to reduce recidivism rates. People with felony convictions face myriad barriers that undermine their ability to build healthy and productive lives for themselves and their families after prison. These barriers include challenges in securing living-wage employment, accessing health insurance and healthcare, obtaining affordable housing, regaining custody of children and reunifying with families, and reestablishing support networks."
Cuomo ended his speech by saying, “At the end of the day, we are one. We are upstate, we are downstate, but we are one.” If he follows through on his juvenile justice reform plans, though, we will fortunately not all be charged as one.