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Raise the Age aimed at relaxing juvenile sentences

Imagine yourself as a 16- or 17-year-old student. At this age, many people are testing boundaries and participating in acts of rebellion. It is the age at which many teens make mistakes and get in trouble. Now, imagine being this age and getting sentenced as an adult for something as minor as shoplifting a bag of chips. This perceived heavy-handed punishment is at the center of a motion presented to members of the General Assembly in North Carolina.

The measure is called Raise the Age and was proposed by a group of legislators named Action for Children North Carolina. They have seen a serious problem with many young people facing misdemeanor charges. In a shockingly high amount of cases, these teens are being sentenced as adults for petty crimes. North Carolina is one of only two states in the entire country that prosecutes 16- and 17-year-olds as adults for misdemeanors.

It is reported that roughly 30,000 teenagers are affected by this treatment. In fact, nearly 80 percent of all people in this age group who are arrested are facing minor misdemeanor charges. The charges range from fighting at school to shoplifting. The group hopes to correct the misguided belief that being tough on kids is the same as being tough on crime.

Teens of this age that are arrested and tried as adults can be sent into the adult criminal system. This may undoubtedly have a negative effect on that person's future opportunities, staining his or her criminal record. Instead of sending a young person to an adult correctional facility, it may be more appropriate -- and cost effective -- to send that teen into a juvenile system. This way, they can stay in school and participate in community service and restitution.

When teens make a mistake, it is not always appropriate to come down hard on them. While they may certainly have to face penalties for unlawful behavior, it is also important that they learn a lesson and are taught not to make the same mistake again. What do you think? Should the Raise the Age bill be signed into law?

Source: Citizen-Times, "It's time to Raise the Age on teen crime," June 13, 2012

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