The Democratic-led Wake County Board of Commissioners is publicly endorsing a Republican-led effort that would keep more teenagers out of prison.
The Wake board, which is responsible for county spending, scheduled a press conference on Monday to support an effort in the N.C. General Assembly that would give the juvenile criminal-justice system jurisdiction over 16- and 17-year-olds.
North Carolina is one of only two states that currently prosecute people age 16 and 17 as adults.
Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Henderson County Republican, earlier this month filed a bill known as the “Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act,” which would move most crimes committed by 16- or 17-year-olds to juvenile court. Violent felonies and some drug offenses would still be considered in adult court.
Commissioner Jessica Holmes said she supports reform efforts because the current laws are “archaic” and create a “school-to-prison” pipeline.
“Evidence shows that adolescents who go through the juvenile justice system are less likely to keep committing crimes than their peers who are treated like adults in the system,” Holmes said.
“The juvenile justice system is best equipped to rehabilitate young people in a crucial stage of development,” she said. “Raising the Age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18 will lead to safer communities, long-term financial savings and better outcomes for young people and their families.”
The effort, known as “raise the age,” has faltered in the past in part because sheriffs and prosecutors said the juvenile-justice system is inadequately funded to take on more teenagers. The group pushing for change this year claims support from the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association.