Raise The Age: the importance of keeping children out of adult jail

On the heels of End Mass Incarceration (EMI) Week comes reenergized attention to the Raise the Age Movement in North Carolina. As explained in my recent blog post entitled, “Mass Incarceration of Juveniles: Does Putting Children in Jail Solve Anything?” North Carolina automatically charges all 16 and 17 year-olds as adults, irrespective of the crime. A simple shoplifting of a pair of $40 jeans after a 16th birthday can leave a child with a permanent criminal record that can and will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Such a conviction via the adult criminal justice system will deny them access to financial aid, employment, public benefits and many other factors that help make a child’s, young adult’s and older adult’s life as successful as possible. These barriers are known as collateral consequences, and in the state of North Carolina, these consequences do not discriminate on the basis of age.
In this brief video, a local judge discusses reasons why children are better served by the juvenile justice system than the adult criminal justice system.

Other negative consequences of treating children as adults are the increased risks of recidivism, which can propel them to the correctional system, among many other deleterious outcomes. It has been estimated to cost 1.5 to 1.8 million dollars to care for one habitual offender from adolescence through adulthood. Proponents of the Raise the Age Movement are not asking for “get out of jail free” passes, but ask that the consequences match the offense, the age of the offenders and any additional mitigating factors.
NC Child, a local non-profit coalition, has been one of the major forces behind HB 725: “The Young Offenders Rehabilitation Act”, which is more commonly referred to as “Raise the Age”, and they send out regular updates to members of their listserv[1].
In 29 days, the 2014 Legislative Session will begin, during which the House will vote on the Raise the Age bill for the third time. So what can we do in the meantime? NC Child is encouraging community members to collectively make 300 calls to members of the House to “urge them to vote YES on HB 725, Young Offenders Rehabilitation Act aka Raise the Age!”
North Carolina needs to catch up with the rest of the U.S. Let’s make this state one where we treat our children fairly, and one that we can be proud of.
Post by SCSJ Troan Intern Oprah Keyes

[1] For more information, to subscribe to their listserv or sign the petition, please visit http://www.ncchild.org/issue/safety/main-area-of-work/raise-age-keep-children-out-adult-system