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We commend North Carolina state legislators for raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction for misdemeanors and low-level felonies in the budget they passed yesterday. This puts an end to the days when 16- and 17-year-olds were automatically prosecuted as adults, even for the most minor offenses. This action will advance justice and strengthen families and communities in the state.
North Carolina was the last state in the country that automatically charged 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in its criminal justice system. When Governor Cooper signs this bill, that counterproductive practice will finally end and 16- and 17-year-olds who commit minor offenses will no longer be prosecuted as adults and will be able to access developmentally appropriate services.
As mothers, we know very well that 16- and 17-year-olds are not adults. They do not belong in adult jails, which put them at high risk for physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault and suicide. They do not deserve to be saddled with criminal records that can follow them for the rest of their lives, making it more difficult for them to go to college, find jobs and housing, and contribute to society.
Teenagers make mistakes and when those mistakes are non-violent crimes, they should be handled by the juvenile justice system. Trying 16- and 17-year-olds who make one bad decision as adults and pushing them into adult prisons is terrible policy; research shows that it fails to improve public safety while fostering crime, costing society more over time and wasting young lives. MomsRising’s North Carolina members have been working for years to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction in the state, so youthful offenders have the chance to change course. Our youth, families, communities and our state are better off because of the action legislators took yesterday.

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