Removing the ‘Millstone Around the Youth of Our State’
It’s rare to see bipartisanship in action, but North Carolina state lawmakers are pulling it off. House Bill 280 increases the minimum age for adult prosecution. Right now, North Carolina is one of the last states in the nation to allow the prosecution of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. This means that young people accused of certain crimes face harsher penalties, despite the fact that being an “adult” applies to people 18 and over.
The NC Policy Watch blog quotes Judge Marion Warren:
“You have someone that commits an offense that you see is from the sheer folly of youth and lack of maturity, and that offense carries with them the rest of their lives. We put an Albatross or a millstone around the youth of our state when we give them an adult conviction.”
Violent Felonies Excluded
House Bill 280 – appropriately named the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act – wouldn’t let all young folks off the hook from adult prosecution. In general, the bill excludes violent felonies, which means that some 16- and 17-year-olds would still be prosecuted as adults. In many cases, though, this bill eliminates the significant and often years-long hardship in terms of loss of opportunities with work and school as a young person, owing to a criminal record as an adult.