All of Our Children

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By Angelo Pinto
Campaign Manager for the Raise the Age Campaign
The Correctional Associations of New York

Governor Cuomo has announced the creation of a commission to Raise the Age of criminal responsibility in New York State. For many advocates this is a victory, however for many families and children this is a second chance at life. This is an opportunity for a system that is built on retribution and punishment to embrace the principles of forgiveness and compassion ultimately for the purpose of healing.

The research has and continues to show that youth contact with the system is not an answer to public safety. It actually exacerbates crime, proliferates violence, reinforces hyper-masculinity, all the while making generations of youth (who are disproportionately black and brown and increasingly girls and non-gender conforming) disposable.

The stories of these children speak not to youth who have gone wild, not of a society who has not turned the other cheek, but of a society that has turned away from facing the institutional and environmental factors that are leading children to cycles of disenfranchisement. Child poverty, and homelessness has made New York State one of world’s most inequitable metropolis’s second only to Romania. Schools built to fail have made education a numbers game where standardized test take the place of cultivating a thirst for knowledge that can build character. Communities who historically have been marginalized are being pushed further to the fringes by ever increasing gentrification that has made neighborhoods in NYC all but unaffordable even for parents who are employed.

Programs that get to the root of the challenges youth are facing through trauma informed care and that build self-esteem through positive youth development are the type of alternative to incarceration programs we hope the commission expands. Equally as important as the values of these programs are where they are located and the infrastructure they build. It is imperative that these programs are developed in the communities that most need them, to provide jobs and an income stream to neighborhoods that have been pillaged for human resources much like third world countries have been pillaged for natural resources.

Raising the Age of criminal responsibility for all youth and all crimes is one step in the direction of addressing decades of policy that have devastated youth’s lives and exacerbated the prison industrial complex. This is an issue that should be at the forefront for all members of our state because the children are not only our future they are our present.  In the words of James Baldwin, “these are all our children, and we will profit by or pay for what they become”.


Angelo Pinto is the Campaign Manager for the Raise the Age Campaign at The Correctional Association of New York. The Campaign seeks to increase the age of criminal responsibility in New York State from 16 years of age to 18 years of age as well as to ensure that children are not housed in adult jails or prisons. He previously worked with the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, served as a Legal Coordinator on Riker’s Island where he taught a legal research course to incarcerated adolescents and adults, and facilitated a leadership training program for youth confined at Riker’s as part of Correctional Associations' Juvenile Justice Project’s work with system-involved youth.