A public hearing was held Thursday night to discuss raising the age a youthful offender can be tried as an adult.
North Carolina is one of only two states in the country that still charges 16 and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, without exception.
The North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice recommends that this practice is changed. Thursday's hearing is part of a series of hearings across the state that seek public input about the policy change. The Raise the Age Campaign pushes for 16 and 17-year-olds to be tried as juveniles for misdemeanor offenses, which account for 80 percent of their criminal conduct.
Chief District Court Judge J. Corpening has been advocating the change for 25 years.
"Most importantly in juvenile court, we're able to more effectively deal with the behavior because we bring a problem-solving model to work rather than a punishment model which is what the adult criminal world is about," Corpening said.
Violent crimes and serious felonies would be punished the same.
“The discussion now is to keep what’s known as A-E felonies, the most serious felonies, the violent felonies in Superior Court for trial as an adult if done by a 16 or 17-year-old,” Corpening stated.
Janna Robertson, who works with the Dropout Prevention Coalition at UNCW, said the research shows charging youthful offenders as adults is as harmful to the offender as it is for the community. As a mother, she said she can't imagine her own kids being tried as adults.
“I couldn’t live with them going to adult prison when I know they’re still children. That’s really what this is about. Every year we don’t raise the age, more and more children are harmed by our system rather than helped,” Robertson said.
Dawuud El-Amin syas 16 is just too young. He works with youth development through Leading Into New Communities, known as LINC.
“You can’t vote at 16; you can’t serve your country, and go to war at 16; but you can put them in jail as an adult at 16? No. That’s not rational,” he said.
Copyright 2016 WECT. All rights reserved.