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Study Panel Urges NC Lawmakers To Raise Prison Age

A task force on juvenile crime says North Carolina should raise the age at which juveniles who commit minor crime are sentenced to adult prisons from 16 to 18.

The panel created by the General Assembly in 2009 said in its final report Friday that only New York still prosecutes 16- and 17-year-olds as if they were adults.

One defense attorney we talked with from Greenville, Jeffrey Foster, thinks each case should be treated on an individual basis and several factors should be considered when a young person commits a crime. Foster says, "You're looking at a lot of factors that basically affect both the juvenile and the community...what is the cost to send a child to prison, verses the cost of keeping them in the community if they are going to engage in these kind of crimes."

The Youth Accountability Task Force's report says making the change would cost taxpayers about $50 million a year. The report says society would benefit in the long run if law-abiding adults weren't held back in job prospects by a stupid mistake they made while teens.

A task force co-chair says its unlikely the recommendations will see action this year as the General Assembly copes with a $3-billion-plus budget hole.


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