We Must Make “Raise the Age” Work for North Carolina Youth
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The adult criminal justice system is no place for kids. Youth in the adult system are more likely to commit suicide, experience physical and sexual abuse, and reoffend once they are released because they have not received the rehabilitation they need.
Last year state lawmakers took an important step to fix this broken system and help North Carolina’s youth when they voted to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction. Once implemented, the new legislation will ensure that the majority of 16- and 17-year-olds charged with a crime will no longer be treated as adults in the criminal justice system.
But these changes must be done the right way. The Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee (JJAC) is tasked with implementing “Raise the Age” and making recommendations to the General Assembly. It is up to engaged parents, youth, and community members to ensure that the JJAC recommends positive and effective implementation strategies that will strengthen and NOT weaken the law. The JJAC needs to hear from you in order to develop a strong implementation plan that will benefit North Carolina’s youth.
Dear Members of the Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee,
In 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly took a historic and positive step by passing legislation to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction so that, beginning in December 2019, most 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be prosecuted and incarcerated as adults.
We have finally ended a century of a harmful and outdated policy that put our state’s young people at a greater risk of suicide, sexual assault, and future criminal activity. They will now avoid the lifetime consequences of a permanent criminal record, which can make it difficult, if not impossible, to go to college, get a job, find housing, and serve in the military.
It was a hard fought victory, and now we must ensure that our youth reap the benefits through successful implementation. Please make sure that Raise the Age remains a priority of the General Assembly by including the following in your recommendations:
1. In partnership with local officials, parts of the law are clarified to ensure that implementation is consistent across the state, communities are prepared for implementation, and our youth experience the intended benefits of raising the age .
2. Directly impacted youth and families are actively engaged in raise the age implementation in a way that values their first hand experiences and addresses their concerns by inviting them to offer public comment or testimonials for consideration and inviting members of the impacted community to join the Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee.
3. Enough money is allocated to staff juvenile court and support community-based programs that provide the support youth need to avoid future involvement with the criminal justice system.
4. There is a plan to create and fund uniform data and case management systems so that stakeholders can track and reduce racial and ethnic disproportionate outcomes of youth prosecuted and incarcerated in juvenile and adult court.
5. No additional offenses are carved out of the jurisdiction of the juvenile court for 16- and 17-year-olds.
6. A prior conviction of a motor vehicle or criminal offense should not require a youth to be treated as an adult for any future charges.
Thank you for your time and consideration of these requests.
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