Raise the Age: What we believe

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If you believe that 16- and 17-year-olds who commit misdemeanors should be handled in the juvenile justice system, add your name here.

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In popular imagination, juvenile crimes occur in darkness and on the weekend.

But, in truth, the majority of our juvenile complaints – 44 percent – are from schools for disorderly conduct, aka acting out in class. Here in North Carolina, if you’ve had your 16th birthday and you act out in class, you can be prosecuted as an adult.

We believe that needs to change and that’s why we support the North Carolina initiative to “Raise the Age” of juvenile jurisdiction to 18 for all crimes except violent felonies.

North Carolina is one of two states that prosecutes 16-year-old children as adults. (New York is the other.) Our law was put in place in 1919 and, despite repeated efforts, hasn’t been updated in almost 100 years.

We believe that wrongs deserve consequences. But we also believe that 16- and 17-year-olds who commit misdemeanors should be handled in the juvenile system. There, they would learn their lesson, pay their dues, and still be allowed to grow up and continue down the path to becoming productive adult citizens. Young people who land in the adult criminal justice system, on the other hand, are twice as likely to commit another crime. They are also disproportionately at risk while in custody – more likely to be victims of rape or assault and to commit suicide.

Think about yourself at age 16, your own children, or the kids in your youth group – any one of whom is capable of acting impulsively and making an error in judgement. If you believe as we do that North Carolina should “Raise the Age,” we invite you to click here and add your name to this statement of support. Working with the Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform and NC Child, we are collecting this information for presentation to the General Assembly in March.