Dear North Carolina Legislator:
North Carolina kids deserve a chance even when they make mistakes. Raising the age means helping North Carolinians compete. Sixteen and seventeen year olds who commit offenses in 48 other states will not carry these charges into adulthood, while North Carolinians who commit the same offenses at sixteen and seventeen years old carry those records for the rest of their lives. That means teens from North Carolina are at a significant disadvantage to the rest of the nation, often for jobs or higher education in our own state. Furthermore, 97 percent of sixteen and seventeen year olds convicted of crimes in North Carolina are convicted of misdemeanors and low-level felonies. Still, since North Carolina currently sends all sixteen and seventeen year-olds accused of a crime to the adult system, they receive a permanent adult record that follows them the rest of their lives. Research shows that sixteen and seventeen year-olds are physiologically and physically still maturing; their judgment and decision-making processes aren’t yet fully formed. Putting a young person into an environment where he or she can be abused and corrupted by older inmates typically only teaches him or her to become a hardened criminal.
Stopping the practice of convicting adolescent youth as adults in North Carolina is a necessary first step to ensuring young people have access to a legal process that meets the rehabilitation needs rather than continuing to lock young people up in adult prisons. It is critical for North Carolina to ensure that that youth involved in the justice system are provided with court processes, services and placement options that are developmentally appropriate.
The Juvenile Reinvestment Act (HB280) is smart on crime, and saves taxpayer dollars.
Evidence shows that youth who go through the adult system are more likely to be re-arrested, re-convicted and re-incarcerated down the road, increasing costs to society and taxpayers. When teenagers are thrown into adult prison, they are often victimized or forced to join gangs for protection. Our current system turns teens into repeat offenders as adults.
Treating children as adults in the criminal justice system is short-sighted and ineffective; youth incarcerated in adult facilities are more likely to suffer physical and emotional abuse and to recidivate These realities are at odds with the goal of rehabilitating youth and protecting public safety.
We urge you to stand with your constituents and move to right a moral, fiscal and pragmatic wrong. Raise the Age in NC NOW by voting YES on HB 280!