Home News Center Connecticut and New York Raise Minimum Age of Prosecution

Connecticut and New York Raise Minimum Age of Prosecution

June 26, 2021
Alyson Clements

Two Young Girls Laughing

In 2021, 14 states introduced legislation to raise either the minimum age of detention, commitment, or prosecution, more broadly characterized as minimum age laws.  So far, three states have passed legislation: Connecticut raising their minimum age of prosecution from 7 to 10, New York raising their age from 7 to 12 and setting the minimum age of secure detention to 13, and Mississippi setting a minimum age of commitment at 12 years old.  These states join California, Massachusetts, Utah, and Nebraska who have successfully raised the age of child prosecution. 


NJJN member, Connecticut Justice Alliance (CTJA) supported the Juvenile Justice Policy Oversight Committee recommendation to raise the minimum age of arrest to 12 and further supported calls to ensure funding and cooperative relationships are in place to make sure children can get services from the appropriate educational, mental health, or family support systems when necessary. 

“In 2019, nearly 100 kids under 12 — including one six-year-old — were arrested and sent to court in the State of Connecticut. Historically, the vast majority of these cases involve misdemeanors; more often than not, the charges are either dismissed or discharged without prosecution. This is entirely a racial justice issue. Connecticut’s data shows that 57% of the children under 12 arrested in 2019 were children of color, mostly from urban areas,” said CTJA’s Executive Director Christina Quaranta. 

To remedy this, Connecticut passed HB 6667, an omnibus bill package referred to as the Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Commission bill, which raises the age from 7 to 10 years old (originally 12, amended to 10) and includes provisions around education and mandatory pre-arrest diversion for low risk children.  The legislation originally included provisions to automatically erase youth records when a youth turns 18 and a ban on use of chemical agents on youth, but they were unfortunately removed.

“While this is a small step in the right direction, we are deeply disappointed the bill did not go further in protecting youth. Our policymakers must prioritize practices that seek to rehabilitate and support system-involved youth, to repair harm and prevent further justice system involvement. We remain committed to advocating for a ban on chemical agents, automatic erasure of youth records, and a minimum age of prosecution of 12,” Quaranta said.

To learn more about CTJA’s advocacy efforts check out their website.

New York

NJJN member, Children’s Defense Fund of New York (CDF- NY) in partnership with a team of advocates across New York who led the successful Raise the Age coalition in 2017, pushed to raise the lower age for juvenile delinquency arrest and prosecution from age 7 to 12.

The bill to “raise the floor” for the youngest children in family court complimented two other bills focusing on teenagers in the adult system. In addition to passing legislation to end the arrest and prosecution of elementary school children, the campaign was successful at getting legislation that permits people convicted of crimes as adolescents to have a second chance to get their record sealed and the conviction replaced with an alternative “Youthful Offender” adjudication. Both bills were endorsed by the State’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus as part of a robust commitment to Expanding Youth Justice in New York.

As KJ Morris, Beat the Odds Scholar and Youth Advocate with the Children’s Defense Fund-NY stated, “Arresting elementary school kids is wrong! Kids don't belong in handcuffs, or police cars, or detention. In New York City, most of these very young children who are arrested are Black and Latinx.”  In response, the legislature passed legislation raising the minimum age for juvenile delinquency from age 7 to 12 for all crimes except most homicide offenses and establishing a minimum age for admission to secure detention of 13.

Morris continues, “We need to help kids, get them services if they need them, and build systems of restorative justice that help them learn from their experiences and move away from punitive practices.  Although further work remains ahead to provide our most marginalized Black and Latinx children with the safe communities they need and deserve, today I'm glad that lawmakers in Albany heard us on the steps of the Capitol and in all of those Zoom meetings, and that we finally raised the age of delinquency to 12." 

The legislation is currently awaiting the Governor's signature.  Once signed and enacted, the law will be a momentous victory, aligning the state with California, Massachusetts, and Utah as having the most robust protections for young children in the country.

To learn more about CDF-NY’s advocacy check out their website and follow them @CDFNewYork. 

Continued Momentum for Reform

The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) was pleased to see so many states introduce legislation to protect our nation's youngest children from court involvement.  The United States is an outlier in its treatment of young children.  Internationally, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recommends no children under the 14 be processed through a criminal court.  Processing and confining children in the youth legal system exposes them to damaging impacts, including physical and sexual abuse, suicide, and significant disruptions to mental and physical development.  We must do better as a nation.  

We applaud states for stepping up and taking the critical actions necessary to protect youth from court involvement. NJJN is committed to furthering the momentum for reform and is currently partnering with Dr. Elizabeth Sarah Barnert, MD, MPH, MS, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and Dr. Laura S. Abrams, PhD, Chair and Professor, UCLA Luskin Social Welfare as well as members across the country to advocate for higher minimum age laws.  

To learn more, check out our campaign page.

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