by Bob Simmons
At this link , you will find a column by Jon Guze, Director of Legal Studies at The John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Raleigh. In it, he explains why the Foundation not only favors Raising the Age in accordance with the recommendations of the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice convened by the Republican Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, (as do the associations of the chiefs of police and sheriffs across the State), but also believes, as does Council for Children’s Rights, that the recommendations could go farther.
As Guze states: “All of the report’s findings are important, but two of them seem to me to be decisive. The first of these is that recidivism rates are significantly lower when young offenders are dealt with through the juvenile system than when they are prosecuted and punished as adults. The second is that—primarily because recidivism rates will be lower—raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction is likely to reduce crime, promote public safety, and yield substantial economic benefits.
“If the report has a fault, it is the way it deals with 16 and 17-year-olds who are charged with serious crimes. Under existing law, juveniles ages 13-15 who are charged with class A felonies are automatically transferred to adult jurisdiction, while juveniles ages 13-15 who are charged with other serious crimes may be transferred at the discretion of the court. Rather than simply leave this provision in place for the 16-17-year-olds who will now be charged as juveniles, the report recommends changing the rule to require automatic transfer for 16 and 17-year-olds, not just for class A felonies, but for B through E felonies as well. These are certainly serious crimes that merit severe punishment. However, precisely because they are so serious, reducing the rate of recidivism for young offenders who commit such crimes is particularly desirable.”
But, as Guze also states, “…given that fewer than 3 percent of young offenders are charged with serious felonies, this is a minor quibble with what is in every other way a remarkable achievement.”
While the effect of this gap in the recommendations’ reasoning will not be “a minor quibble” to the young people affected, even ardent advocates for our children and youth agree that we cannot let it stand in the way of turning the “remarkable achievement” of the NCCALJ’s recommendations into law for the benefit of the 97% of 16 and 17-year-olds currently swept up into the adult criminal system for lesser offenses — to their detriment, to the detriment of public safety, and to the detriment of our State’s economy.
When the law is changed to follow the recommendations, and when the effects of that change have proved the advocates correct, then we can move forward with further reforms to achieve even greater gains.
More about Raise The Age and our policy position can be found here.