CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - CNN’s political commentator Van Jones was in Charlotte Monday night to talk about Raise the Age legislation. Raise the Age states people at the age of 16 and 17 will no longer be charged as adults. They will now be prosecuted as juveniles. Many believe this new law will make a difference.
“Kids are kids,” Political commentator Van Jones said. “They do dumb things. They make mistakes. There’s a reason we don’t call them criminals. We call them delinquents because they are late to develop the right attitude. We have to give kids a second chance.”
The organization Council for Children's Rights hosted Jones for it first annual Children's Rights Forum. Organizers were pleased with the event and the turnout. It wants Jones to inform and inspire people to get behind Raise the Age.
“You can change laws,” Jones said. “That doesn’t mean you are going to change lives - you change lives by getting people involved.”
The political commentator told the crowd more opportunities need to happen for young people. He believes young people need something to do with their time to keep them out of trouble. Jones thinks giving teenagers something positive to do over two consecutive summers can be life changing.
“If you own a business, you want to help out,” Jones said. “If you are an educator, an entrepreneur reach out to these young people - give them a shot. Look back on your own life - somebody helped you - I don’t care who you are - some coach, some pastor, some teacher, somebody helped you. We’re not doing enough to help these young people...You need a community to save a generation and that’s the opportunity in North Carolina.”
North Carolina was the last state in the nation to pass Raise the Age. Now that the law is passed - fully funding the initiative needs to take place. Money is needed to hire more social workers, counselors, and other staff to make this new law work.
“North Carolina can do it,” Jones said. “There’s no doubt about that. You’ve got some of the smartest people - some of the best people - some of the people with the strongest faith tradition. There is no reason in the world why North Carolina can’t do this really well.”
Jones is committed to helping young people. He shared why he is so committed.
“I had the chance to go to Yale for Law School when I was in my 20′s,” Jones said. “I saw more kids doing drugs in Yale than I ever saw in the housing project, but none of those kids went to prison and worse - they went to rehab. So we know what to do with poor people’s kids when they get in trouble cause we do it for rich people’s kids. I just want all kids to be treated the same.”
Jones was also on hand to present his book entitled “Beyond The Messy Truth.” Jones will return to Charlotte next year for the Republican National Committee (RNC) 2020 convention. He recognizes the significance of the RNC coming to Charlotte and he knows North Carolina can shine when it comes to implementing Raise the Age.
“North Carolina means a lot in American politics,” Jones said. “People need to pay attention. They need to register. They need to vote, but no matter what party you are in - these kids don’t care about parties. These kids need hope. They need help. They should get that in North Carolina.”