Wake County leaders support changing how NC handles teen suspects

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There’s a call for major changes to how the state handles teenagers charged with crimes.

North Carolina is one of two states that automatically prosecutes 16 and 17 year olds as adults.

Now,  there’s a bipartisan push to change that, but it comes with a cost.

Wake County Commissioners passed a resolution to support changing things.

They want teens under age 18 treated as juveniles.

The bill the commissioners are supporting would still treat those teens as adults in the case of certain felonies like murder and motor vehicle laws.

In 2014, more than 17,000 misdemeanor charges were filed against 16 and 17-year-olds statewide.

Supporters of trying them as juveniles say they get access to better programs that increase the likelihood they won’t commit crimes again as adults.

But, doing this would cost about $50 to $60 million up front for new facilities, counselors, and prosecutors.

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Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison says without that, this won’t work.

“We can’t go at this halfway because if we do it’s gonna fail. It’s gonna make everybody look bad,” Harrison said.

“I’m going to do everything I can in my power to advocate for it. This is a good investment in the future of children and families in North Carolina,” said Sen. Tamara Barringer (R-Wake).

There’s $13 million in the governor’s proposed budget for new facilities as well as additional funding for programs.

If this bill passes, it doesn’t become effective until the end of 2019.

 

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