Currently New York is only one of two states (the other is North Carolina) that automatically prosecutes all 16- and 17-year-olds in the adult justice system. No one — not even a judge — can overrule the legislative decision that adulthood in the criminal justice system begins at 16 (also known as the “age of criminal responsibility”).
Young people housed in adult prisons and jails face serious and elevated risks of sexual abuse, suicide, armed attacks, and emotional abuse. Children in solitary confinement spend up to 23 hours a day in a cramped cell, deprived of human contact. Extended isolation can be psychologically shattering for anyone, but it is especially harmful for developing adolescent minds. Prosecuting children as adults has also been shown to increase recidivism.
These photographs were commissioned by the Correctional Association of New York, (the CA), an independent non-profit organization that advocates for a more humane and effective criminal justice system and a more just and equitable society.
The pictures and voice recordings of their subjects are in a series of videos and in a printed brochure. The goal of the project is to educate lawmakers and the public about the need to “Raise the Age” of incarceration and to garner support for legislative change to New York’s outmoded and ineffective law.