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North Carolina still prosecuting juveniles as adults

North Carolina's juvenile justice system continues to be under scrutiny for their harsh punishment against older teenagers. Did you know that North Carolina is only one of two states in the U.S. that prosecutes 16 and 17-year-olds as adults for even minor crimes?

Advocates for reforming North Carolina's juvenile justice system believe that not all 16 and 17-year-olds should be charged and tried as adults. Advocates say that sending teenagers to adult prison only increases the chances that the juvenile offenders will offend again and end up in and out of prison as adults.

Research has found that when teenagers commit a crime, one of the biggest influences on a teen's behavior depends on the connection he or she has with his or her family. If the teen is spending time in prison for a misdemeanor offense, they are spending more time with prisoners than with their family and other good influences that could help reduce their chances of offending again in the future.

When teenagers are sentenced as adults, they have a conviction on their adult criminal record. In other states that don't prosecute teenagers as adults, juvenile offenders will not have a conviction on their criminal record as an adult. Unfortunately in North Carolina, juvenile offenders will have to carry the stigma of having a criminal record with them for the rest of their lives, making it more difficult for them to find employment, and housing and may even impact their ability to get into their top college choice.

The good news is that North Carolina is currently considering a bill that would allow 16 and 17-year-olds who commit minor offenses to be sent to the juvenile justice system. Under the bill, offenders would continue their schooling and learn work skills that would prepare them for adult life. Teenagers who commit serious offenses would still be punishable under the adult system.

If the bill passes, fewer juveniles would be charged as an adult for misdemeanor offenses, giving them a better chance at succeeding in the future.

Source: News Observer, "Stop turning NC teens into gladiators," Newt Gingrinch, April 14, 2013

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