Of those complaints, 47 percent were against Black children, 40 percent against white children and 7 percent against Hispanic or Latino children, the report said. Around 22 percent of the state’s population is Black, 70 percent white and 10 percent Hispanic.
The arrest of the boy, who is Black, has also been seen as a case of racial discrimination in the juvenile justice system.
“When a cop picks up a white boy, he takes him to his parents. But if he is black, he takes him to the state,” Mary Stansell, juvenile chief at the Wake County Public Defender’s Office, was quoted as saying.
Therapy over criminalization
Lyana Hunter, of the New Hanover County public defender’s office, likewise argues that criminalizing children at such an early age may just change their lives for the worse, as per WECT News 6 on March 18.
“A 6-year-old … we’re talking about someone that’s in kindergarten, first grade. They don’t understand the process, they don’t understand what’s going on, they probably don’t even know their address,” Hunter was quoted as saying.
“The earlier that you introduce a child to the criminal justice system, the higher the chances are that they will remain in the criminal justice system,” she stressed.
Hunter, who has been representing juveniles for 14 years now, noted that the behavior that sends children under 12 years old to juvenile court is better addressed in therapy.
At 6 years old, North Carolina has the lowest minimum age in the world to enter the juvenile justice system, the report said. There are efforts, however, being done to raise the minimum age to 10 years old.
The 2020 North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice in the US report, meanwhile, recommends raising the age to 12, while the National Juvenile Justice Network recommends further raising the age to 14. Ian Biong /ra