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The Voice of the Black Community


Young enough for adult trial?
Bill would prosecute 13-year-olds on felonies
Published Thursday, April 18, 2013 8:03 am
by Herbert L. White

How young is too young to stand trial as an adult?

A bill before the N.C. House of Representatives would give prosecutors the authority to try juveniles as young as 13 on felony cases in adult criminal court.

A bill that would give prosecutors authority to try juveniles in N.C. Superior Court has galvanized children’s rights and civil rights advocates.

HB 217-filed by N.C. Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake), would allow the prosecution of teens as young as 13 in cases that would be considered felonies if committed by an adult. North Carolina is the only state that automatically prosecutes 16- and 17- year-olds as adults regardless of a crime’s severity and forbids transfer to the juvenile system upon appeal. Opponents of HB 217 contend the bill politicizes the juvenile justice system while closing the door on rehabilitation.

“It makes an unjust system already worse,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a national advocacy group. This will allow prosecutors, who are part of the political system, unchecked authority to prosecute children and put them in adult facilities where we know by statistics there is very little chance for them to make any type of recovery or path forward.”

Statistics show that about 80 percent of youth cases are misdemeanors, 17-18 percent are low-level felonies and 3-4 percent are serious felonies such as armed robbery, rape and murder.

Stam’s bill would allow prosecutors to file a motion to shift juvenile felony cases to Superior Court for trial, pending a judge’s finding of probable cause. HB 217 supporters back the legislation as an efficient crime-fighting tool that will save the state money.

Stam’s office did not respond to an email request for comment on the bill.

Opponents counter the bill would doom thousands of teens to detention in adult facilities where they face abuse and have an increased risk of sexual assault, suicide and death. The stakes are especially high for African American defendants, who are detained and sentenced to prison at higher rates than the overall population.

“They’re 36 times more likely to commit suicide than their counterparts who are in the juvenile justice system,” Robinson said. “These adult prisons offer very few rehabilitative services.”

A separate bill, HB 585, filed by David Lewis (R-Harnett) would require county jails and state prisons to regularly report on compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act to separate youth inmates from the adult population.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 percent of U.S. jail inmates are juveniles, but they represented 21 percent of all substantiated victims of sexual violence in 2005 and 13 percent in 2006.

In 2008, black juveniles, who comprise 15 percent of U.S. young people, made up 62 percent of the youth inmates held in adult prisons. 

Juvenile inmates also face dimmer job and education prospects because permanent adult records create a lifelong stigma. They’re also more likely to return to prison, Robinson maintains. A recent survey found that 40 percent of adult jails provide no educational opportunities and only 7 percent offer vocational training. Juvenile facilities, on the other hand, decrease recidivism rates  by as much as 40 percent.


THIS IS CRAZY!!! Who could EVER conceive an idea like this?!?!
Posted on July 26, 2013

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