The North Carolina Senate approved legislation last week that would roll back the 2019 Raise the Age Bill. Raise the Age protected 16- and 17-year-olds from automatic prosecution in adult courts. North Carolina was the last state in the nation to protect kids from adult court. But now we’re back-sliding, disregarding all evidence about the ways in which juveniles are less mature and more susceptible to rehabilitation than adults.

The bill, currently awaiting consideration in the House, proposes that teenagers accused of violent crimes be sent to adult court first. There, they will be subject to more punishment, whereas in the juvenile court system, judges can order services like mental health care, family support, or job training. Furthermore, juvenile records are kept confidential to help young people move forward past mistakes without stigma that lasts their whole lives.

Kerwin Pittman, director of policy and program for Emancipate NC, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that the change would potentially put juveniles in a position where they “would no longer be able to gain a sense of restorative justice…The science still rings true that juveniles that go through the juvenile legal system are less likely to reoffend,” he said.

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