Juvenile justice advocates are trying to change laws in New York and North Carolina to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as juveniles rather than adults in the criminal justice system, reports USA Today. The two states are the last automatically treat those in their late teens, regardless of their crimes, as adults. In a years-long trend, states have been changing their laws to keep young offenders out of adult prisons. Teens treated as adults live in violent settings without rehabilitation where more experienced criminals can take advantage of them, advocates say. Some are cautious, saying that changing the age for juveniles will be expensive and may strain the juvenile justice system.
There are 130 minors among New York’s 53,898 prisoners and 64 among North Carolina’s 37,148. Thousands of young people are arrested, charged and convicted as adults. Some may avoid prison time but still carry the stigma and consequences of being treated as adults. In New York and North Carolina, coalitions have worked for several years to get the age of adult criminal responsibility raised. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year called for a commission to study changing the law.