June 9, 2014
To the Editor,
Bipartisanship is alive and well, and the N.C. House demonstrated how it can benefit communities across our state when it voted 77-39 to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction. A diverse team of groups, including Justice Fellowship, the NC Faith and Freedom Coalition and NC Child, came together to encourage legislators of all stripes to back the bill. The result is the kind of commonsense reform all North Carolinians can be proud of.
Currently, North Carolina is one of only two states that automatically handle 16- and 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors in the adult justice system. This is bad policy. Kids prosecuted as adults for low level offenses have trouble finding jobs and getting into college, and are more likely to get into additional trouble. The juvenile system is more attuned to both firmly teaching kids a lesson and getting them back on track.
This is one reason we established the Robeson County Teen Court & Youth Services in May 2013 as a nonprofit agency to address these 16- and 17-year-old first-time misdemeanor offenders. Legislators from the speaker of the House to the House minority leader as well Reps. Ken Goodman, Charles Graham and Garland Pierce supported this smart-on-crime change — and set a shining example for their colleagues in the Senate.
I applaud them.
Center coordinator, NC Center for Youth Violence Prevention Interim
Executive director, Robeson County Teen Court & Youth Services