'One of the issues is race. There is a significant disparity in terms of participation in the juvenile justice system, period, regarding race. I'm concerned about the recidivism rate that we see in the 17-year-olds and the 18-year-olds who go into the adult system. Once they get in the system at that young age, they seem to stay there at a higher rate. I'm concerned that if we don't address this raising the age, we are writing off some cohort -- the low-income, working-class-family type ... in terms of being productive contributors. And that is negative for economic development. Wherever they end up, they're going to be draining rather than contributing, and I don't feel we can afford it.'
Rep. Angela R. Bryant, D-Halifax, Nash
Co-sponsor of legislation
'To open up the juvenile courts all the way to age 18 will clog up that court system, and the juvenile court system by its nature is much slower than the criminal district court system. So the crime victims will get relief much later. ... The philosophical aspect of it is when a person reaches age 16, we as society think these folks are old enough to do a lot of things ... and we should start the process of treating them as adults. When a juvenile commits a major crime, they're going to end up getting their wrists slapped, and at most going to incarceration until they're 21. If you treat them as an adult, and they deserve it, they may get a 10- or 12-year sentence. I don't see a difference between a 17-year-old committing a robbery at a convenience store and an 18-year-old committing a robbery at a convenience store.'
Rep. Ronnie Sutton, D-Robeson
'If somebody steals a dog when they're 15, they go through the juvenile justice system. ... They can get out and go to college. ... If somebody steals a dog when they're 16, they go through the adult courts and a parent might not even be contacted. ... If they get convicted, that's a felony. It's a felony to steal a dog. They would have to report that felony forever. It's much harder to get into college. It's much harder to get money for it, and it's much harder to get a job.'
Elizabeth Hudgins, Action for Children
'In my experience, juveniles who are 16 and 17 years old, if they are troubled youth, are the most difficult to deal with. ... I think it needs study to determine if the juvenile system is prepared to deal with persons of that age. They may very well be, but they may not be. They haven't had to do that in the past. The Department of Correction is experienced in dealing with that age group. If a study shows that the Department of Juvenile Justice is prepared, then I have no problem with it, but it really needs to be looked at prior to making that change. Part of the study needs to determine how they would be dealt with. '
Rep. Ray Warren, D-Alexander, Catawba, is a former sheriff
'It will target a population that needs more support and services in the juvenile justice system than they would get in the adult system. ... I think most recently and most importantly, there's been a lot of research on the developments of adolescent brains and decision-making among adolescents, and it's pretty much been determined that they're bad decision-makers. They have little foresight, they are easily swayed. They make very rash decisions. Raising the age recognizes the scientific research and all these impacts, and I think that's another reason it's good policy. Juvenile court forces ... the entire system to deal with children as individuals.'
Eric Zogry, state juvenile defender
' Most districts are really lenient with kids under 18. There are provisions which allow drug cases to be dismissed after probationary periods. Most kids are getting quite a few benefits for nonviolent cases, anyway. There are fairly generous expungement provisions. But we also have a lot of people who commit a lot of crimes. We have defendants under 18 who commit not necessarily violent crimes but property crimes, which I think should be on their record. To all of a sudden put those two years in juvenile court certainly needs to be looked a lot more carefully. ... This is a change that is going to have tremendous ramifications.'
Clark Everett, president-elect of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys
'There's a rising problem of gang violence and violent crimes being committed by folks in the age group of 16 to 18. If someone was to undertake this change, it would need to be on the heels of comprehensive change in the juvenile court system. ... A lot of folks get multiple chances in the adult court system before they get a severe penalty. ... When you commit those kinds of crimes, surely someone in that age group would understand the consequences of what they do. Let's look at the ability of the juvenile system to deliver justice on behalf of the public before making this change. '
District Attorney Gary Frank, District 22