“What we're doing is simply setting up the system so at the time we have the money we can make the change.”The push for raising the age was preceded by several major scientific studies that demonstrated the young brain was still developing its decision-making capabilities in older teenagers. The juvenile justice system is geared toward rehabilitating offenders — a focus that the adult system doesn't always offer.
A juvenile offender will receive a court counselor to help them through the system and be ordered to attend school and undergo treatment that can include community service and counseling.
The sheer number of new offenders in the system would present challenges.
Officials would have to process an additional 30,500 charges each year if 16- and 17-year-olds were added to the system, according to the task force report.
Under the proposal, the number of children served in the juvenile justice system would almost double, creating a need for new employees, programs and facilities, officials say.“If you don't have the money, then you will just create chaos,” said Bob Speight, chief court counselor in New Hanover County.
Others wonder if there is a better way to address youth crimes.
In New Hanover County, that meant the loss of two court counselors, Speight said. He added that juvenile delinquency court would likely be expanded to two or three times a week instead of once if the age was altered.
With that in mind, juvenile justice workers wonder where the resources for expansion would come from.“Our fervent hope is that the department is adequately funded and that treatment resources are available,” said Chief District Court Judge J. Kinnaird, the state senator, said the bill was written with the troubled economy in mind since it delays implementation for several years.“The big question is will (legislators) understand that we are not imposing this to start immediately,” she said. Supreme Court has put limitations on the punishments juveniles can receive. Simmons ruling, the court declared that people younger than 18 years old could not receive the death penalty.
Those 16- and 17-year-olds accused of the most violent crimes such as murder, rape and armed robbery still would face adult charges, under the proposals.
Driving violations also would remain in adult court, and 16- and 17-year-old offenders previously convicted of felonies in adult court would be prosecuted as adults for any subsequent criminal charges.