April 20, 2024 11:01 am
Close this search box.

Local News

NC Advocates Push for End to Juvenile Life Sentences

Credit: iStock

Shanteya Hudson

More than half of U.S. states have already banned life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles. North Carolina isn’t one of them – yet.

In a panel discussion with the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, state Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Whitsett, said he backs the need for a scientific approach to address the issues of youth development and criminal justice.

“There needs to be retribution, punishment and so forth, and justice, when certain crimes are committed,” he said, “but if the brain is not fully developed, I think we have to take that scientific fact into account.”

Many advocates have argued that a sentence without the possibility of hope or incentive for self-improvement for the young offender falls short. However, critics of ending the threat of life sentences have voiced concerns about the impact on victims and public safety.

Also on the panel, North Dakota state Sen. Diane Larson, R-Bismarck, highlighted her state as an example of banning juvenile “life without parole” sentences. With unanimous approval of legislation in 2017, Larson said, North Dakota has prioritized the role of the parole board and eliminated the possibility of life without parole.

“We all think that people who commit terrible crimes should be held accountable; they should be answerable for their crimes,” she said. “But there needs to be some opportunity for them to grow up, learn from what they’ve done, make better choices.”

Formerly incarcerated at 16, panelist Anthony Willis spent more than two decades in a North Carolina prison for murder. He received clemency from Gov. Roy Cooper, and offered his own story as a testament to the power of change. Willis said he believes the possibility of eventually going home serves as a powerful motivator for people behind bars, thus fostering a safer environment for prisoners and staff.

“As a teenager, it’s very hard to go to prison as a child. Everything that you were taught from your parents, that goes out the window,” he said. “It’s a totally different culture while you’re in prison and you don’t really have that guidance, that mentor, that person to try to help you develop into an adult. So, if you have a ‘life without parole’ sentence, there is no incentive at all to do the right thing.”

Willis and others said the key to North Carolina changing its juvenile sentencing practices lies in considering all parties, focusing on rehabilitation and determining the resources needed for successful re-entry.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Solar leases help NC farm owners up revenues, keep homestead

In the serene fields of Pendleton, North Carolina, Ajulo Othow, founder of EnerWealth Solutions, draws inspiration from her post-Katrina economic development work to establish solar installations that not only respect the landscape but offer sustainable income to local landowners. Her projects prioritize minimal disruption while maximizing benefits, reflecting a thoughtful approach to renewable energy in rural settings, and enhancing both economic and environmental resilience.

North Carolina Tenants Union seeks to level playing field in state’s tight housing market

In response to challenges faced by North Carolina tenants, including unjust evictions, unaffordable rent hikes, and poor living conditions, the North Carolina Tenants Union (NCTU) was officially launched with the aim of empowering tenants through collective action for fairer housing policies and laws. With a statewide network of local tenant unions, NCTU focuses on crucial issues such as legal representation in eviction proceedings, strengthening housing codes, and facilitating collective bargaining for lease renegotiations.

Troubled waters: DEQ proposes adding 400+ miles of streams, rivers to impaired list

Despite Bogue Sound’s serene appearance along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, it faces significant environmental threats from bacteria due to aging wastewater infrastructure and other pollution sources, prompting a proposal to list over 1,500 acres of the sound on the federal impaired waterways list for the year. This situation underscores a broader concern across the state, with over 400 miles of streams and rivers proposed to be added to this list, reflecting the ongoing challenge of balancing development and environmental preservation.