Teenagers as Young as 16 are Treated as Adults in Court – North Carolina as a Case Study
In North Carolina, a 16-year-old teenager who has committed a crime is prosecuted like an adult. This does not occur anywhere in the United States, only in New York.
However, NC legislators want to change it. Minors should be trialed as minors with the exception of especially serious crimes.
Legislators have so far avoided changing the law mainly due to rising costs: if juveniles are not treated as adults and do not go to jail, the state will have to spend plenty of money on rehabilitation programs. However, criminologist point to the fact that keeping teenagers out of the prison system will reduce recidivism and may turn out to save the authorities plenty of resources in the long run.
Another point worth considering – if the state decides not to prosecute juveniles, crime rates will decrease significantly. There will be less people considered criminals. Of course, if there are not rehabilitation programs available, this reduction in crime rate will be nominal only.
According to various studies, in terms of numbers, increasing prosecution age (“Raise the Age”) will initially cost tax payers in North Carolina around $50 million annually. However, in years to come, thanks to decreased recidivism rate, state’s spending will go lower by more than $100 per year.
The problem is that politicians usually lack the foresight needed for long-term planning. Huge costs entailed in reforming the justice system may hinder any prospects of change.
All other states understood long ago that juveniles should be treated not as harsh as adults. Apart from being immoral (and even unconstitutional), it is a mistake from an economical point of view to treat teens as adults. Let’s hope that NC legislators will come to their senses as soon as possible and will follow other states.