The tragedy of Kalief Browder is another cautionary tale of how society and the justice system can fail juveniles. Growing understanding concerning the limits of developing brains in assessing behavior and expectations stops at the door of where criminal law is applied to children.
Having represented children and families as an attorney in Family Courts throughout the Hudson Valley and New York City, I'm convinced the majority of young people committing petty crimes have other issues going on in their lives contributing to their actions. Daily, I see Family Court judges produce amazing outcomes by working collaboratively with law enforcement and other agencies to wrap intensive services around families with children at risk. All work together to address underlying issues so kids will remain out of the criminal justice system.
Currently, our older teenagers are being treated as adults when they commit vandalism, petty theft, minor drug crimes, and other non-violent offenses. Even if they avoid jail – and the sad fate of Kalief Browder – they are still stuck with lifelong challenges from having a criminal record. If "Raise the Age" legislation passes, these young people could benefit from the intensive services a Family Court judge can compel, and the wrap-around community services that can be provided to their families.With appropriate safeguards and guidelines for who gets to participate in this more holistic approach, things can only get better. Certainly we cannot sit and wait for the next kid to suffer Kalief's fate.
With appropriate safeguards and guidelines for who gets to participate in this more holistic approach, things can only get better. Certainly we cannot sit and wait for the next kid to suffer Kalief's fate.
The writer is an attorney in the Rockland County Family Court and current candidate for Rockland County Family Court.