Should Teen Criminals Be Charged As Adults?
CHARLOTTE, NC- In North Carolina, when 16 and 17-year-olds commit crimes, they are tried as adults.
But, when lawmakers head back to Raleigh in January, they'll talk about raising that age to 18.
Crawford, along with 40 other agencies in Mecklneburg County, is pushing 'Raise the Age' legislation. Raise the Age NC says 16 and 17-year-olds need to be in the juvenile system, which focuses more on rehabilitating teens rather than punishing them.
"What's their school situation, what's their home situation, is it a birth or adoptive child? Trying to get underneath to what the issues really are and juvenile court was created to take that approach," said Crawford.
"The juvenile system is a failure, so why would expand a failing program,” said Marcus Philemon, who tracks repeat offenders through CharMeck Court Watch. He says teens need more than a slap on the wrist.
According to the district attorney's office, there are 130 pending homicide cases in Mecklenburg County right now. 10 percent of those were committed by teens under 18. But those teens would not be part of the raise the age legislation - it only affects teens who've committed misdemeanors.
"If you sit in court, you'll realize they're getting younger and the offenses are getting more serious because they're not being held accountable for the smaller offenses they commit,” said Philemon.
Experts say adult prisons also mean safety risks for teens. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that minors are victims of 21 percent of sexual violence in U.S. prisons.
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