Jim Saint Germaine was just shy of 16 when he was arrested and sent to a juvenile facility. Things might have been different had he been a year older and tried as an adult.
Saint Germaine, 25, brought his story to the state Capitol Tuesday in an effort to convince state lawmakers to change New York’s policy of automatically prosecuting 16- and 17-year-old offenders as adults.
“I could’ve been in Attica. In Sing Sing. I would have been sent to Rikers Island. Instead I was given a chance,” said Saint Germaine, who is now pursuing a master’s degree at New York University. “It saved my life.”
New York and North Carolina are the last two states that treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults when it comes to crime. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed changing the law. The Democrat points to research that shows adolescents lack the decision-making skills of adults. Those accused of particularly violent crimes could still be tried as adults at a judge’s discretion.
“Incarcerating our young people in adult prisons is an abject practice that must end,” Cuomo said on Tuesday. “There is no excuse for subjecting hundreds of youth to an environment where they’re being hurt, not helped.”