North Carolina is one of three states, New York and Connecticut being the others, that automatically treat criminal defendants as young as 16 as adults in the legal system. Next year, Connecticut is putting 16- and 17-year-olds back into the juvenile system. Some North Carolina lawmakers want this state to change the law and allow teens under 18 to be tried in juvenile courts.
It's a common-sense idea and ought to be done. Trying these people in juvenile court would likely shield records from public scrutiny, in effect giving teenagers charged with crimes a chance to straighten out without having a permanent stain on their records. And younger folks who were charged with particularly violent crimes still could be tried as adults, which is the way the system works now.
Establishing a juvenile system that would include more teens would be expensive, which is why some law enforcement officials and district attorneys oppose the change. The system is bending under the weight of cases, detention centers and rehabilitation programs now, they say. But that's just not a good enough reason to walk away from change that would give youthful offenders a better chance to become responsible adults, with fewer roadblocks on that path.