Pilot “Adolescent Diversion Parts” Provide Leniency to Minor Defendants

In the State of New York, minors as young as 16 years of age are prosecuted in adult criminal court, rather than in family court, for non-violent offenses, including vandalism and shoplifting. However, as the New York Law Journal reports, courts across the state have begun to implement a pilot program for minor offenders that emphasizes rehabilitation and skill building, including job training and drug counseling, over punishment. Termed “Adolescent Diversion Parts,” this pilot program will allow non-violent offenders to receive lighter sentences in conjunction with rehabilitation programs, leading to a dismissal of charges following attendance of court-mandated programs, for example, rather than community service and a criminal record. Prosecutors and defense attorneys alike are optimistic about this new measure, with the understanding that a heavy hand with adolescent offenders leads to increased rates of recidivism, when additional support and opportunities for growth are often needed to correct problem behavior and prevent crime. Courts across the state, including in Nassau County and in each of the five boroughs, have adopted this pilot program so far. Johnathan Lippman, the Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, said in a speech last year, as reported by the New York Law Journal, “We need an approach that is based on the best interest of the child and rehabilitation rather than an approach based on punishment and incarceration.” In addition to the state-wide establishment of this new approach to adolescent offenders, Judge Lippman has also called for raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18.
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