Brooklyn Community Foundation Co-Authors Letter to New York State Officials Urging "Raise the Age" Reforms

Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of the State of New York
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Honorable John J Flanagan
Senate Majority Leader
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Honorable Carl Heastie
Assembly Speaker
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Heastie:

We are writing as funders with over a hundred years of collective experience on juvenile justice issues. We’re excited that this year’s adopted budget includes funding to implement reforms to the juvenile justice system and “raise the age” at which youth are charged as adults. This is greatly needed and it is needed now.

We have seen many states grappling with the question of how to deal most effectively with juvenile crime. Almost all of them have come to the same conclusion: adolescents are children, and prosecuting and placing them in the adult criminal justice system harms them and doesn’t work for public safety. In fact, only New York and North Carolina put 16- and 17-year-olds through the adult criminal justice system, no matter the charge. 

Any solution to this problem must be broader than simply getting youth out of adult prisons and jails—already Federal law. Youth respond well to positive interventions because their brains are still developing. Research has overwhelmingly proven that these interventions move them onto a productive path, whereas negative interventions—like going through the adult criminal justice system—can put them on a path to a life of crime.

We have worked to fund programs that support young people—programs that offer intensive counseling, drug treatment, educational and positive youth development, and support for families. None of these are available in the adult criminal justice system. 

We urge you to consider seriously what has already been proven to work as you develop final legislation to raise the age.

The tragic death of Kalief Browder, who was arrested at 16 years old and spent three years of his young life in Rikers for allegedly stealing a book bag, is a painful reminder to us all that our children’s lives literally depend on what we do now. 

We welcome the opportunity to sit down with you to share what we have learned from our work in this area. We are wholly committed to continuing to support life-saving positive interventions for children, which we can do effectively if the state does what is needed. 


Cecilia Clarke    
President & CEO      
Brooklyn Community Foundation

Julie Peterson
Program Officer
Pinkerton Foundation

Penny Wilgerodt 
Executive Director
Prospect Hill Foundation 

Cavin Leeman
Stephen & May Cavin Leeman Foundation

Maria Mattola
Executive Director 
New York Foundation 

Sol Marie Jones
Executive Director
Long Island Community Foundation

Elizabeth Wachs
Wachs Family Foundation

Lisa Bing, Chair
Board of Governors
Concord ChristFund

Peter Sills
Sills Family Foundation

Jacki Mann
Elias Foundation

Amy Freitag
Executive Director
J.M. Kaplan Fund 

Emily Tow Jackson
Executive Director
Tow Foundation 

Leslie Gimbel
President & CEO 
Bernard F. and Alva B. Gimbel Foundation

Lukas Haynes
Executive Director
David Rockefeller Fund

Leticia Peguero
Executive Director
Andrus Family Fund