Our View: 'Raise the Age' is common sense


Rocky Mount Telegram

Friday, May 19, 2017

North Carolina law­mak­ers con­tinue to take wel­come steps in the ef­fort to re­vise ju­ve­nile jus­tice by “rais­ing the age” of adult of­fend­ers.

The N.C. House this week over­whelm­ingly voted for a bill that would try 16- and 17-year-olds as ju­ve­niles – not adults – in cases in­volv­ing mis­de­meanors or nonvi­o­lent felonies.

When a teenager is ac­cused of a vi­o­lent crime, a judge would re­tain the op­tion of de­cid­ing whether the de­fen­dant should be tried as an adult. Victims and prosecutors also would have the right to ask a judge for a defendant to be tried as an adult under special circumstances.

The pro­posal now goes to the N.C. Se­nate. If it passes there and meets Gov. Roy Cooper’s ap­proval, North Carolina would join all 49 other states in its treatment of 16- and 17-year-olds.

The mea­sure does not mean law­mak­ers are soft on crime. In fact, crime rates among ju­ve­niles ac­tu­ally have de­clined in other states that fol­low such a pol­icy. It also has proved to be a de­ter­rent for kids who have got­ten in trou­ble and ful­filled the re­quire­ments or­dered in ju­ve­nile jus­tice pro­grams in other states. Stud­ies find they are less likely to re­peat their mis­takes.

Kids sometimes do stupid stuff. That’s no different in this generation than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

They should face con­se­quences for their ac­tions and learn from their mis­takes, but they shouldn't be shack­led with crim­i­nal records for the rest of their lives for misdemeanors and other small of­fenses. And they cer­tainly shouldn't face jail time in adult pris­ons.

Almost 97 percent of the convictions among 16- and 17-year-olds in 2014 were for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts.

The “Raise the Age” ef­fort has drawn bi­par­ti­san sup­port for its com­mon sense ap­proach. Let's put the plan into law.