Community Leaders were in attendance for the Rochester Black Bar Association (RBBA) Association Town Hall - Prosecuting Juveniles: Fact vs Fiction.
Assemblymember Demond Meeks, Rochester City School Board President Cynthia Elliott, former Superintendent Shaun Nelms, and others attended the town hall meeting at First Genesis Baptist Church on 292 Hudson Avenue.
RBBA hosted the town hall meeting. The organization promotes the involvement of attorneys of color in the Rochester community. The RBBA aims to enhance the legal proficiency of its members, establish a support network, and advance equity for marginalized lawyers. In line with its mission, the RBBA recently organized a town hall meeting to discuss the relationship between young individuals and crime, with a specific focus on the impact of juvenile justice laws like "Raise the Age."
Representatives from the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, Monroe County Law Department, and the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office explained their roles and the laws governing the prosecution of juvenile offenders. They also answered questions from community members.
The town hall meeting addressed concerns about the rise in youth crime and its potential connection to juvenile justice laws. Various perspectives were shared during the meeting, providing examples to support each viewpoint. By examining the insights presented at the town hall, community members delved into the complexities surrounding this issue.
One argument put forth during the town hall meeting suggested that the "Raise the Age" law, which prevents 16- and 17-year-olds from being charged as adults, has contributed to the increase in youth crime. Supporters of this viewpoint believe that by treating these individuals as juveniles, they are not being held fully accountable for their actions. Consequently, this leniency may encourage young offenders, leading to a surge in criminal activities. To support this argument, statistics from other jurisdictions that have implemented similar laws could be cited.
On the other hand, proponents of the "Raise the Age" law argue that treating 16- and 17-year-olds as adults can have detrimental effects on their rehabilitation and prospects. They contend that the juvenile justice system is better equipped to address the underlying causes of youth crime, such as lack of education, poverty, and mental health issues. By prioritizing rehabilitation over punishment, this approach aims to reduce recidivism rates and provide young offenders with an opportunity to successfully reintegrate into society. Examples of successful rehabilitation programs and recidivism rates in jurisdictions that have implemented similar laws could be utilized to support this argument.
The event shed light on the intricate relationship between young individuals and crime, specifically examining the impact of juvenile justice laws. While some argue that these laws contribute to an increase in youth crime by not holding young offenders fully accountable, others believe that they promote rehabilitation and reduce recidivism rates. It is crucial to consider both perspectives and evaluate the evidence presented to make informed decisions regarding the most effective approach to address youth crime.
Assessments have been conducted to determine the cause of the increase in youth offenders. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey was completed by over 19,000 public high school students in Monroe County. Violence and bullying have a significant impact on school attendance, performance, mental health, and overall well-being. Key findings include: 9% of students reported carrying a weapon in the past month, 12% reported engaging in a physical fight in the past year, and a higher percentage of Black and Latino students witnessed violence in their neighborhoods compared to White students. The report also highlights trends in violence and bullying from 2015 to 2022.
These findings could play a role in the behavioral issues impacting juvenile offenders. Additional studies are needed to determine the best way to prosecute underage offenders.