Wednesday was a great day for the Raise the Age movement!
The Youth Offenders Rehabilitation Act (HB 725) passed the Judiciary A Subcommittee and was referred to the House Appropriations Committee. It is a long way to final passage, but it’s an important hurdle that we’ve cleared.
The debate in the committee centered around whether we should allow youth to fall through the cracks by going to the adult justice system – where they lack the community support and age-appropriate rehabilitative services – or continue to punish children as adults. Thankfully with a near unanimous vote the committee picked the former.
Much was debated in committee about the cost, the impact, and the juvenile system’s ability to handle 16 and 17-year olds.
While we know there will be a cost impact to raise the age, we also know that Connecticut’s efforts, the most recent states to raise the age, did not experience the higher costs originally determined prior to becoming law. As Representative Avila pointed out during the committee meeting the cost projections can vary widely depending on what assumptions are made in the calculations by fiscal research staff.
We know one thing for sure – the current system for 16 and 17-year olds does not work. Parents are not part of the rehabilitative process when you charge 16 and 17-year olds as adults. Instead, those 16 and 17-year olds who lack the mental capabilities of an adult, are subject to harsher sentences that do not seek to correct the root causes of delinquency. Moreover, we are subjecting our youth to an adult criminal record that will hinder their ability to go to college, find employment, and remain competitive with peers across the nation who live in states that have determined minors should not be held to a criminal adult standard for misdemeanors at 16 and 17-years old.
Finally, the juvenile justice system has ample experience dealing with 16 and 17-year olds who entered the system at a younger age. Therefore, these minors are currently being monitored and treated in the juvenile system even as 16 and-17 year olds.
There is a lot of work yet to be done as we shepherd this bill through the Appropriations Committee and then to the full House. We’ll need your help and your support every step of the way. Just as with the Judiciary A Committee, we’ll ask you to contact members of the Appropriations Committee and then the entire NC House. It is important that these legislators hear from the public, especially youth, parents, clergy, attorneys, business leaders, law enforcement, judges, and advocates.
For nearly a century we have held children to an adult standard that does not work and will never work. The only certainty in the current system is higher recidivism and continuing to fail our youth.
We encourage you to participate in our weekly Child Advocates call for important updates on this bill as well as several which are under consideration in the General Assembly.
Let’s continue to make 2013 the year where Raise the Age becomes reality!