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Petitioning North Carolina State House and 2 others

North Carolina: Get Children Out of the Adult System


When children end up in the adult criminal justice system, no one wins. Research shows that prosecuting youth charged with low-level crimes in the adult criminal justice system wastes young lives, fosters crime, does not increase public safety, and costs society more in the long run.

Youth charged with low-level crimes should be handled in the juvenile justice system.

Evidence shows that the juvenile system - with programs tailored to how children think and learn - is more effective at rehabilitating youth. Fewer then go on to commit another crime, which means lower costs to society and more children growing up to become educated, employed citizens.

North Carolina remains one of only two states in the nation that still prosecute all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, regardless of the severity of the crime. When youth end up in adult court, there is limited access to rehabilitative programming, mentoring, counseling, or even education.

A bag of chips shouldn't cost a kid his future-- or taxpayers a lifetime of support. But in North Carolina it does! A North Carolina high school student was arrested and charged with larceny in 2011 for stealing a .69 cent bag of Doritos from the cafeteria. Yes, this kid made a mistake and deserves consequences. But in N.C., our outdated system of trying 16 and 17-year-olds who commit minor, low-level crimes as adults means far more drastic and permanent consequences than almost anywhere in the country. By Raising the Age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18, we'll discipline our kids effectively and prevent them from becoming career criminals.

Tell North Carolina's leaders that it's time to join the rest of the country. Tell them to throw out this nearly 100-year-old law and put 16- and 17-year-olds accused of low-level crimes in the juvenile justice system, where they can be treated, rehabilitated, educated, counseled, and prepared for a successful life.

Please sign this petition to help us reach our goal of 10,000 signatures--that’s how many 16 and 17-year olds are convicted as adults in N.C. every year.

Letter to
North Carolina State House
North Carolina State Senate
North Carolina Governor
I recently learned that North Carolina is one of two states in the entire nation that automatically prosecutes all 16- and 17-year-olds accused of a crime in the adult criminal justice system, with no exceptions or waivers. A legislative Task Force studied the issue for almost two years and, in January 2011, recommended that this outdated law be changed so that youth accused of low-level crimes are handled in the juvenile system.

Evidence shows that youth who go through the adult system are more likely to commit more crime down the road, as permanent adult criminal records limit their opportunities. Handling youth who commit minor crimes in the juvenile system improves public safety and eliminates unnecessary roadblocks to life success in the path of youth who are rehabilitated.

Of the thousands of minors processed in North Carolina’s adult system, 80% are accused of minor crimes. The Youth Accountability Planning Task Force recommended that the age be raised to 18 for those youth accused of low-level crimes. In 2012, the Age of Juvenile Offenders Committee also recommended that the General Assembly consider legislation to raise the age for youth who commit misdemeanors. Under the Task Force's recommendation and the future legislation, youth who commit serious felonies would continue to be handled in the adult system. For more information about the Youth Accountability Task Force, visit For more information about the Age of Juvenile Offenders Committee, visit

Should doing something silly--but definitely wrong--like stealing a bag of Doritos from a lunch line or Gatorade from a snack stand limit our youth’s potential for the rest of their lives and increase their chances of becoming career criminals? Both are real examples and both do not represent how I want my tax money spent.

As your constituent, this issue is very important to me. By raising the age we will better protect our youth, protect our community and protect our tax dollars!

I am writing to urge you to support raising the age for youth accused of minor crimes, and to thank you if you already do. The future of our state depends on how we treat our youth today!

Raise the Age Statement of Principles


1. Children are our most vital and valuable resource and investing in each of them is investing in our collective future; and

2. An adolescent mistake should not determine a child’s outcome in life; and

3. Research should inform policy and practices; and

4. Current brain research demonstrates that adolescence is a developmental phase and youth do not have adults’ ability to make informed choices and plan for the long-term; and

5. Because of their still-developing brains, adolescents need guidance through the transition from childhood to adulthood; and

6. Community institutions like schools, the faith community and child and family-serving agencies should provide supports and guidance to parents; and

7. The adult criminal justice system is not structured to handle the developmental, educational or social needs of children; and

8. The juvenile justice system provides the developmentally-appropriate programs, services and punishments that can help parents nurture and guide young people as they grow into productive adult citizens; then

We believe North Carolina’s policy-makers, communities, advocates and government systems should work to:

I. Keep children and youth out of the criminal justice system whenever possible by addressing their needs and those of their families early and effectively through prevention and intervention.

II. Continue to build a juvenile justice system that offers age-appropriate treatment and services, therapy, education, job skills training and punishment and further enhance the system to support and promote evidence-based programs.

III. Ensure that all youth under age 18 charged with a crime start in the juvenile justice system, are treated in an age-appropriate manner and are provided with developmentally appropriate, evidenced-based services and supports. Ensure that sanctions, when needed, are appropriate to a youth’s developmental stage.

IV. Fully fund local Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils and the state Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to ensure the availability of evidence-based and developmentally appropriate programs and services.

State & National Organizational Supporters

Action for Children North Carolina
Action North Carolina
Alamance County Dispute Settlement & Youth Services
Alexander Youth Network
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) North Carolina
Benchmarks, Inc.
Campaign for Youth Justice
Carolina Justice Policy Center
Caught Before Fallen
Charlotte Children's Alliance
Children First/CIS of Buncombe County
Children's Home Society of North Carolina
Communities In Schools of North Carolina
Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance
Council for Children's Rights
Covenant with North Carolina's Children
Cumberland County CommuniCare
Disability Rights North Carolina
Eckerd Youth Alternatives, Inc.
Emotions Organization
Forsyth Futures
Haven House, Inc.
ILR, Inc.
Jackson County Psychological Services, Inc.
John Locke Foundation
Justice Fellowship
Leadership CONNECTIONS, Inc.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) North Carolina
National Association of Social Workers (NASW) North Carolina
National Juvenile Justice Network
North Carolina NAACP
North Carolina Advocates for Justice
North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE)
North Carolina Council of Churches
North Carolina Families United
North Carolina Foster and Adoptive Parent Association
North Carolina Justice Center
North Carolina Pediatric Society
Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina
Project Challenge, Inc.
Right on Crime
Spirit House Inc.
The Sentencing Project
Thompson Child and Family Focus
United Way North Carolina
Youth Empowered Solutions

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