Sen. Tamara Barringer joined members of the faith community Tuesday morning to encourage the passage of legislation that would raise the age of juvenile prosecution from 16 and 17 years old to 18 years old.
“I believe in second chances,” Barringer said. “I have fallen myself and picked myself up. Children need a second chance — we all need a second chance every now and then, and this bill will do that for those children.”
She is one of the sponsors of Senate Bill 564, one of the pieces of legislation in the General Assembly this session that would raise the age of juvenile prosecution.
House Bill 280, which has passed the House and is awaiting a Senate committee hearing, has been the most publicized and supported raise the age bill thus far, and religious leaders at Tuesday’s press conference called for it to pass the Senate.
North Carolina is currently the only state in the nation that treats 16 and 17 years olds as adults in the criminal system.
Proponents of bills to raise the age say it will save the state money, reduce recidivism and is just the right thing to do. Opponents are concerned about the up-front costs and legislation that includes some felony charges that would fall under juvenile jurisdiction.
Barringer said not raising the age is more costly, and once a child has to go through life with a criminal record, it’s likely they won’t get into college, get a job or be accepted by the military.
“The theme here is family and children,” she said. “Let’s just keep the enthusiasm, so hopefully this will become law for us.”
When asked why Senate legislation would postpone implementing raising the age to a year later than House legislation, she said the body is trying to approach the measure logically, thoroughly and thoughtfully.
The Rev. Mark Creech, Executive Director of the Christian Action League, pointed to the science behind the legislation and said children aren’t old enough to make certain decisions.
“Youth, as we all know, can do some really stupid things in life, and that’s why we shouldn’t respond stupidly when they do,” he said.
He called raise the age legislation “pro-family.”