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New York is the only state in the nation besides North Carolina that prosecutes 16 and 17 year olds in the adult criminal justice system.

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The result? Over 45,000 16 and 17 year olds a year are arrested as adults. Many of them go into the adult prison system and advocates say their lives are then irreversibly changed by the experience — and not for the good.

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Juvenile justice advocates think its time for New York to rethink its laws. Advocates, politicians, faith leaders, judges and the formerly incarcerated rallied outside the New York Metropolitan Corrections Center yesterday to kick off a campaign to change state law.

“We should be providing our youth the support and services they need to overcome challenges and be successful, not prosecuting and incarcerating them as adults,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, at the rally. “The time to end this cruel, wasteful and destructive practice is long overdue."

Advocates say that statistics shows 70 percent of those under 18 who are arrested are black and Latino. That group makes up 80 percent of teens who are incarcerated.