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.