NORTH CAROLINA REALLY, REALLY WANTS TO STOP PROSECUTING 6-YEAR OLDS?
So North Carolina has been in the news a lot of late. Gerrymandering, the pandemic, crzy politics with the governor and state legislature. The list goes on and on. But this one really surprised me. Like, a lot. I had no idea that the state of North Carolina can prosecute children as young as 6. Sounds shocking, right? But yes, kids that young can face charges in juvenile court! What the hell is that about? And because it’s so ugly a truth, North Carolina says they really want to stop prosecuting these little ones. Really. So what, exactly, does that mean?
NORTH CAROLINA HAS THE YOUNGEST AGE ANYWHERE PROSECUTING YOUNG CHILDREN
Well, first a little background. That is, in fact, the youngest age in any of these United States where prosecuting kids is legal tender and on the books. And it’s been on the books since the year 1979. That’s literally when people still wore bell bottoms. So what changed? Was North Carolina desperate back then to go after kids in court? Well, no. Back in those saner days, North Carolina used the juvenile justice system as a means to actually support both kids and their parents. So what changed is, the justice system is now in many ways a business, blind to anything but contracts.
YES, PROSECUTING THESE YOUNG KIDS DOES OF COURSE INVOLVE RACIAL DISPARITY
And yes, race has a lot to do with this story. Between 2016 and 2019, there were 2100 complaints against 1150 kids younger than the age of 10. And you guessed it, most of them were minorities. While North Carolina says no one under the age of 10 did any “time,” just appearing in court can be traumatic. So how does North Carolina plan to stop prosecuting these really young kids? Why, a supposed bipartisan effort to raise the minimum age. To 10. Because that sounds like a solution, right?