Keep age of criminal responsibility right where it is, at 16
In the coming months much attention will be focused on legislation aimed at raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 from its current age of 16. Many articles and editorials have been written promoting this idea as a way to protect our young children from having to deal with adult situations in the criminal justice system when they have been alleged to have committed a misdemeanor or felony at the age of 16 or 17. We would like to offer a differing opinion.
Though they refer to studies about the maturation of the teenage brain, we would like to offer that we trust our 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds to babysit our children, drive our cars and work.
Should we not, at this age, be able to hold young people criminally responsible for their actions when they intentionally pick up a rock and throw it through someone’s window, secure drugs or sell drugs?
While police chiefs steadfastly work to prevent the incarceration of young people, we also realize there are many times that this is the only avenue available to hold an offender responsible for heinous crimes. However, we agree that incarceration should be the last resort, and in most cases not the initial reaction to the crime charged.
The system has been aided for decades by the use of the youthful offender statutes, a privilege that is allowed far too many times for youth between the ages of 16 and 18 convicted of low-grade misdemeanors and felonies who are consistently given that status by criminal court judges. This flies in the face of the original intent of the law that was designed for the “first bite of the apple,” not the “entire orchard.”
We, conversely, also have seen where young people have not been granted what they should have been, and for that we urge the appropriate agencies to monitor their own actions to make sure that our young people are treated fairly — whether they be in the inner-city or in suburbia — and afforded the opportunity for youthful offender status when at all possible.
We can look at the fine work being done by police chiefs throughout the state, whether by utilizing and supporting Youth Courts, Explorers groups, Police Athletic Leagues or any number of other programs that police utilize to not only prevent young people from making mistakes but also to defer them away from the criminal justice system for disposition. Expansion of these programs will have far greater impact on our youth than re-legislating their responsibilities.
So in fact, we do now treat these young people differently and if they are not being treated appropriately, if they are being improperly sent to jails, then we should be talking to the people who send them there to make sure that they are being afforded the rights they deserve.
We do not encourage the Legislature to adopt any new rules in changing the age of criminal responsibility. We already have a system in place that affords them a second chance and more.
Steven H. Heider
The writer is Colonie police chief president of the State Association of Chiefs of Police.
Democratic tactics in Sch’dy County shameful
This letter was written on Election Day and will be postmarked as such — so the outcomes of elections in Glenville and Schenectady County have not yet been determined.
Looking at what has transpired in the pre-election banter, I have to wonder what the county and Glenville town Democrats think is going on around them. They have repeatedly mailed out literature with inaccurate information and, in some cases, outright lies. I have kept all of the mailers and am astonished at their demeanor. I have also witnessed in the town signs for Republican candidates removed, tossed in the gutter and bushes and in their place a Democratic sign has appeared. This is a tactic that has not fooled the electorate.
Needless to say, I have placed my vote in the hands of a deserving team of candidates, Row B. I hope the Democratic Party decides to campaign positively in the future so that issues and concerns can be discussed accurately and not behind a campaign of misinformation and lies.
The county Legislature needs a cleansing, and needs voices that will speak honestly. I have been a county resident for 30 years, and this Legislature should be ashamed of the tactics used for this election.
Change law so New York women get equal pay
New York’s women are strong. They have to deal with discrimination in the workplace, domestic violence, sexual harassment, reproductive health issues, having their own orders of protection used against them, sex trafficking and discrimination at work because of their parental status. They need laws as strong as they are. It’s time for an upgrade. It’s time for state legislators to enact the Women’s Equality Agenda.
Older women in the workforce remember when the employment want ads had separate columns for male and female jobs. They were shunted into “female” jobs, and then they were paid less than men simply because they were women.
Even though we have an equal pay law, women in New York between the ages of 46 and 65, working full time, make only 73 cents for every dollar a man makes.
The Women’s Equality Agenda will close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act that allow employers to get away with unequal pay for equal work. Let’s get the upgrade done now.