Albany County District Attorney David Soares once again exploited a tragedy to make a political point, lying about the state's Raise the Age laws.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares once again exploited a tragedy to make a political point. In the aftermath of tragic shootings in Albany, Soares this week lied about and scapegoated the state’s Raise the Age laws, which changed the age of criminal responsibility to 18. Soares again advocated for more pretrial jailing for children, a misguided, ineffective, dangerous policy, ignoring all available data about community safety actually means.
Here is the truth about Raise the Age. Before 2017, New York automatically prosecuted 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Children by every other definition, young people were being held in jails with adults and given criminal records that would stay with them the rest of their lives, contradicting all available research about adolescent brain development. In 2017, legislators passed “Raise the Age” legislation, which brought New York in line with the rest of the country by changing the age of criminal responsibility to 18. The law redirected all children charged with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies (with some exceptions) to Family Court.
For children charged with violent felonies, their cases will be heard in family court unless the case involved a class A felony, the child caused serious physical injury, the child displayed a firearm, or committed certain sexual conduct. Therefore, any child charged with a homicide, causing serious injury or displaying a gun, is prosecuted as an adult under the Raise the Age guidelines.
Instead of providing background information on Raise the Age, Soares and the CBS 6 article mislead the public about safety. The news story is about three people who were tragically killed in Albany over the weekend. No arrests have been made, so nothing is known about the people responsible. Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins noted that 6 out of the 10 homicides in Albany this year have had “domestic ties.” The police department has hired advocates to create better support networks for domestic violence survivors.
Soares, however, dismissed the police chief’s concerns and redirects the blame towards repeat offenders and legislators who passed modest criminal justice reforms, like Raise the Age. This is a common trope from Soares: ignore the data about what actually creates community safety, misrepresent the law, and advocate for policies that will put more vulnerable people in jail. In this case, there is no evidence that the homicides were committed by a child or by someone with a criminal history, but that does not stop Soares from trying to score political points.
By now, media outlets should understand that Soares will use any interview opportunity to lie and fearmonger about criminal justice reform for his political benefit. Outlets like CBS 6 have a duty to provide context about Soares’s comments and false claims about Raise the Age. One’s job title in law enforcement does not automatically confer credibility about topics like pretrial reform and Raise the Age; law enforcement and “legal experts” regularly lie about laws and their impact in order to advocate for more incarceration.
The reality is that Raise the Age has nothing to do with the tragic deaths in Albany. What the law actually does is treat children like children, while still allowing judges to hold those who commit serious violent crimes responsible for their actions. Instead of telling the truth about Raise the Age, Soares cruelly advocates for locking more children in cages.
Link to CBS 6 story