In New York state, the idea that adults and teenagers don't belong in the same prisons goes back a long, long way. In 1824, thanks to the efforts of Quaker reformers, our state legislators created one of the earliest versions of juvie, called the "House of Refuge." It was meant for poor children and juvenile delinquents, in order to ensure they didn't wind up in the same place as adult criminals.
Image by Flickr user Casey Konstantin
Since then, though, our progress has slowed a bit: New York state has one of the lowest ages of "criminal responsibility" in the country: Sixteen-year-olds here are automatically tried as adults even for nonviolent and misdemeanor crimes. Only one other state, North Carolina, does the same. That means each year, thousands of New York teenagers end up in adult jails and prisons, doing adult time. A new report shows that's increasingly uncommon elsewhere in the country; as it stands right now, we're lagging behind Colorado, Arizona, and Texas in changing our juvenile offender laws. Yes, Texas.More »