It is common knowledge that children tend to have poor judgment in various situations. Unfortunately, if a juvenile makes a decision that has serious repercussions, such as participating in a crime, that child or teen could end up facing severe consequences, such as criminal charges and steep sentencing. In some cases, individuals under the age of 18 could even face sentences of life in prison.
In North Carolina, life in prison is possible for juveniles, depending on the crime, but recent proposed legislation is seeking to change that. The state has some of the strictest laws regarding juvenile crimes as children as young as six could face criminal charges in juvenile court. There are two bills currently under consideration in the state legislature, with one proposing to raise the age of criminal responsibility and the other proposing to eliminate the sentencing juveniles to life without parole.
Those in favor of these bills provide the following support:
- Children have the tendency to change, meaning that sentencing them to life in prison without parole may be an unjust punishment.
- A juvenile who has already been convicted of a serious crime may not be guaranteed release, but a hearing would allow the person to show how he or she has changed and whether parole could suit the circumstances.
- For first-degree murder, a period of 25 years would be allowed to pass before requesting a parole hearing.
- For all other crimes, a period of 15 years would pass before parole consideration.
- Research regarding brain development from childhood into adulthood is playing a significant role in support for these bills.
Some young people in North Carolina have barely gotten started in life before they find themselves in a predicament that could have lasting consequences. Unfortunately, as of now, even if a juvenile is able to learn and grow from their mistakes, they are stuck behind bars. The passing of these bills may give hope to individuals in this type of situation.