Board of Aldermen supports "Raise the Age" legislation

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen proposed a resolution May 9 for the North Carolina General Assembly to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction.

North Carolina is the only state left to still treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. The bill progressed through the North Carolina House Judiciary Committee on May 8.

Damon Seils, a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, said supporting the bill was important because the current law unnecessarily limits opportunities for 16- and 17-year-olds.

“The vast majority of crimes committed by juveniles are not violent offenses or they’re misdemeanors," Seils said. "It doesn’t make sense for kids to be tried as adults under the circumstances."

Rob Thompson, the policy and communications advisor for NC Child, said he’s not surprised to see the Carrboro Town Council support the bill.

“I think this year we see a lot of really diverse support across the political spectrum, we have a majority of House members in the North Carolina House who are actually sponsoring the bill,” Thompson said.

Sells described how the bill was a bipartisan effort, because its subject was widely agreed upon.

“It is supported by a wide range of advocacy groups and professional organizations, including the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association, the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police, among others,” Seils said. “So I think people from all over the spectrum, including law enforcement professionals, support this.”

Peggy Nicholson, co-director of the Youth Justice Project at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said there have been efforts for over a decade in North Carolina to raise the age in juvenile court jurisdiction.

“I think that there have always been barriers, like law enforcement concerns or funding," Nicholson said. "I’m not sure what makes North Carolina unique in that those concerns have kind of been able to proceed past bills in other states."

Thompson said the passage of the bill is best for the kids and the community.

“What we know from research and evidence from other states when children who are charged as adults, is they’re more likely to re-offend, and they’re less likely to get their lives on track,” Thompson said. “It really makes no sense to continue to put these kids in the adult courts.”

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