RAISE THE AGE:
Nationwide, an estimated 250,000 youth are prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system every year, and nearly 10,000 youth are locked in adult jails or prisons on any given day.
The most recent statistics for North Carolina are from 2014, when 5,689 16 and 17-year-olds were convicted as adults, 3.3% for Class A-E felonies, 16.3% for lesser felonies and 80.4% for misdemeanors.
HB 280 – Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act
HB 280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, was introduced in the N.C. General Assembly on March 8, 2017. The bill would “raise the age” of juvenile jurisdiction in North Carolina to 17 for low-level felonies and misdemeanors. Primary sponsors of HB 280 are Representatives Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), David Lewis (R-Harnett), Duane Hall (D-Wake) and Susan Martin (R-Pitt, Wilson).
Why Raise the Age?
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- Juvenile System is More Effective
- Juvenile System is Fairer
- Juvenile System is Safer for Children and the Public
- Raising The Age Makes Economic Sense
- Young offenders handled in the juvenile justice system are less likely to re-offend and more likely to complete their high school education.
- North Carolina data shows a significant 7.5% decrease in recidivism when teens are adjudicated in the juvenile versus the adult system
- North Carolina data also shows that when youthful offenders are prosecuted in the adult system, they recidivate at a rate that is 12.6% higher than the overall population
- Research shows that active interventions focused on strengthening support systems and improving abilities in the areas of self-control, academic performance, and job skills are more effective than strictly punitive measures in reducing crime. While these type of interventions can be and are implemented in the juvenile system, they are virtually unavailable in the adult criminal justice system.
- Raising the Age can strengthen families. While the criminal justice system cuts parents out of the process, the juvenile system requires their participation and thus serves to strengthen parents’ influence on their teens.
- Saddling North Carolina’s youth with arrest and conviction records puts them at a competitive disadvantage as compared to youth from other states. Although some have suggested that expunction can be used to remove teens’ criminal records, there are significant barriers to expunction, such as legal fees.
- The consequences of an adult criminal conviction for youth are serious, negative, life-long, and severely impair youth chances at future success. Children charged as adults have more trouble finding jobs, completing their education and staying in stable housing because of the permanent adult criminal records they carry with them.
- Youth in adult jails are far more likely to be raped or be the victims of violence while serving their sentence or awaiting trial. The appropriate place for these 16- and 17-year-olds is in the safer youth system.
- Youth sent to adult jails and prisons face greater risks of exacerbated emotional and mental health problems, including greater risks of suicide.
- 97% of youth offenses are either misdemeanors or non-violent felonies. The juvenile justice system is better equipped to handle first-time and minor offenders.
- Because they typically present in the adult system with low-level offenses, charges against youthful offenders often are dismissed. Studies show when states have implemented raise the age legislation, public safety has improved.
- Two separate studies authorized by the North Carolina General Assembly indicate that raising the juvenile age will produce significant economic benefits for North Carolina:
- In 2009, the Governor’s Crime Commission Juvenile Age Study submitted to the General Assembly included a cost-benefit analysis of raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18. The analysis, done by ESTIS Group, LLC, found that the age change would result in a net benefit to the state of $7.1 million.
- In 2011, the Youth Accountability Planning Task Force submitted its final report to the General Assembly. The Task Force’s report included a cost-benefit analysis, done by the Vera Institute of Justice, of prosecuting 16 and 17-year-old misdemeanants and low-level felons in juvenile court. That report estimated net benefits of $52.3 million.
- Much of the estimated cost savings would result from reduced recidivism, which “eliminates future costs associated with youth ‘graduating’ to the adult criminal system, and increased lifetime earnings for youth who will not have the burden of a criminal record.”
Council for Children’s Rights Policy Statement on Raise The Age
North Carolina is one of only two states that still requires the prosecution of all 16- and 17- year-olds accused of a crime in the adult criminal justice system. This law deprives children of proper services, increases the likelihood children will recidivate, and reduces the likelihood they will pursue employment and higher education. As part of the Council’s on-going effort related to this reform, the Council will support amendments to the juvenile justice code in the areas of due process, children in confinement, and reducing entry to the delinquency system. These targeted reforms will improve children’s legal rights and how juvenile court operates thereby improving outcomes for children. These reforms will build a foundation for the Council to then advocate for the larger issue of raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction in future sessions. The Council will advocate in the General Assembly and among local and state-wide bodies to raise the age of mandated juvenile court jurisdiction from 15 to 17-years-old. It will also advocate for raising the minimum age for transfer to adult court, which was reduced to 13-years-old in 1994.
Criminal Investigation and Adjudication Interim Report NCCALJ
Report and Recommendations from the NC Commission on the Adminstration of Law and Justice. In November 2016, NCCALJ issued a recommendation that the state raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include youth ages 16 and 17 for all crimes except Class A through E felonies and traffic offenses.
HELPFUL LINKS AND INFORMATION
More information about the Raise the Age Coalition web site.
Members of the public wishing to support the effort to Raise the Age can sign a petition here.
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