Q&A About the Criminal Justice System

1. What is Raise the Age New York campaign and who is behind it?

Raise the Age is a public awareness campaign that started on July 11, 2013. It aims to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York State from 16 to 18. The people behind the campaign are national and local organizations, public policy makers, law enforcement, parents and other groups. There have been similar campaigns started in other states who have raised the age, like Connecticut.

2. How many youths under 18 are held in jail annually?

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2011 4,600 juveniles were tried or awaiting trail as adults in local jails.

Source: The Bureau of Justice Statistics

3. How many youths under 18 are held in state prisons annually?

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2011 1,790 inmates under 18 were in prison. New York State had 182 inmates under 18 in prison.

Source: The Bureau of Justice Statistics

4. How much money is spent on prisons? Who pays for this?

The Vera Institute of Justice, an independent non-profit for justice policy and practice released a study in 2012 that stated the cost of prisons was $39 billion (40 states participated in this study). The annual average taxpayer costs per inmate in these states was $31,286. In New York State, the cost was $60,000 per inmate in prison.

Source: The Vera Institute of Justice

5. What is the racial and ethnic make up of those in city jails?

In 2012, of the 12,287 inmates in city jails 57 percent were black and 33 percent were Hispanic.

Source: New York City Independent Budget Office

6. How many people in city jails are convicted or are waiting for trail?

In 2012, of the 12, 287 inmates in city jails, 16 percent were sentenced to jail, 8 percent sentenced to prison and 76 percent awaiting trial.

Source: New York City Independent Budget Office

7. What are some long-term repercussions from having a criminal record?

  •  Harder to get jobs due to background checks.
  • Can’t vote (known as citizen disenfranchisement).
  • If a student has a criminal record, he or she can’t apply for Federal Pell Grant or federal student loans.
  • Can’t buy firearms.
  • Can be denied from getting federal housing.

8. What are some organizations that help formerly incarcerated individuals reintegrate into society?

9. What is the difference between a felony and misdemeanor in NYS?

A felony is an offense that carries up to one year of imprisonment or life. There are five categories and two subcategories of felonies  (A-I, A-II, B, C, D, and E). Murder or treason would fall into the highest degree of felony, Class A, while a DWI or DUI (resulting in harm to a person or structure) would fall under Class E, the lowest felony degree.

A misdemeanor is an offense other than traffic infraction of which a sentence in excess of 15 days but not greater than one year may be imposed. Some examples of misdemeanor crimes are: prostitution, shoplifting, trespassing, and vandalism. Misdemeanors fall into three categories: Class A, Class B, or Unclassified. Class A misdemeanors are the most serious (e.g. assault or theft) and jail time of up to a year can be imposed.

Source: New York State Law

10. What is a youthful offender status in NYS?

If a person is charged with a crime in New York and is under 19 at the time of the offense, then he or she is eligible for “Youthful Offender” treatment. YO status is mandatory for the eligible defendants who are convicted of misdemeanors. The person can still go to prison, but he or she won’t have a criminal record.

11. What is recidivism?

Recidivism refers to a person who re-offends after jail or prison. Recidivism is measured by criminal acts that resulted in rearrest, reconviction or return to prison with or without a new sentence during a three-year period following a prisoner’s release.

12. What are some differences between the juvenile justice system and the adult justice system in NYS?

Screen shot 2014-12-13 at 2.03.47 PM[Source: Information obtained from the Campaign for Youth Justice]