NEW YORK (AP) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo kicked off the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend Saturday by telling supporters of the Rev. Al Sharpton that New York must stop treating 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system.
“We have a civil right crisis, which is, 16- and 17-year-olds in this state get tried as adults,” Cuomo said at the Harlem headquarters of Sharpton’s National Action Network.
Cuomo said New York and North Carolina are the only two states that prosecute all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults and added, “That law has got to go. I’m going to make it my priority.”
The Democratic governor also touted his administration’s initiatives in education, gun control and expanding the number of state contracts that go to minority and women-owned businesses.
“Every study says, the younger you get the child in the classroom the better for the child,” Cuomo said. “Every studs says, the young mind is open, the young mind is ready, get it in there for positive lessons. We want to have universal full-day pre-K all across the state of New York.”
Cuomo called for universal pre-kindergarten in his state of the state speech earlier this month but has not said how it will be funded.
Cuomo said he wanted to come to Sharpton’s weekly rally to set the tone for the holiday honoring King. He recalled being invited by Coretta Scott King to deliver an address at the slain civil rights leader’s former Atlanta church on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1999 when he was U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
“I was flattered by it and also nervous about it,” he said.
Cuomo said he studied King’s writings in preparation for his speech. He said he learned, “Justice is not an evolutionary process. Justice happens if we make it happen.”