NJ ex-con tells lawmakers to pump brakes on harsher auto-theft penalties for minors
Since finishing a 30-year prison sentence in 2018, Antonne Henshaw has been working to keep today's youth off the wrong path.
As part of his latest advocacy efforts, Henshaw is urging New Jersey lawmakers to take their foot off the gas with some of their proposals aimed at tackling New Jersey's growing problem of automobile thefts.
"We're literally going backwards," Henshaw said of legislation that increases penalties for juveniles who commit motor vehicle theft and related crimes.
Henshaw, 53, testified on Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which advanced a number of bills targeting vehicle thefts.
One bill would mandate incarceration for anyone, including juveniles, convicted for related offenses.
"One of the hardest things that I'm seeing ... is waiving young people up to adults," Henshaw said. "We cannot throw them away, we can't."
As a way to make money, Henshaw started stealing cars at age 13. He was eventually arrested for murder and sentenced to 30 years to life in 1989.
Today, he works with the Rutgers Youth Success Program to steer kids away from crime.
Henshaw said legislation should focus less on lockup and more on prevention — he's in support of a bill, for example, that requires a vehicle's identification number to be stamped on its catalytic converter.
State Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, said one of his bills, S3006, was not crafted to put juveniles in the detention system "and throw away the key."
"It is about giving our authorities ... the ability to get to these kids and get them out of a life of crime before it's too late," Bucco said.
New Jersey recorded more than 14,300 vehicle thefts through the first 11 months of 2022.