“Raise The Age” Bill Gains Momentum in NC Legislature

 

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Rep. Chuck McGrady Leads the Effort to Offer Second Chances to Youth Offenders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Washington, DC, May 18, 2017 – The American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform released a statement today regarding the advancement of juvenile justice reform in North Carolina. The North Carolina House of Representatives passed legislation yesterday that would protect youth (ages 16 and 17) who commit low-level offenses from being charged as adults.

“Raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18 for nonviolent youth offenders is key to preserving justice in North Carolina. Locking up a 16-year-old boy alongside hardened adult criminals for stealing a candy bar is like throwing a ribeye into a lion’s den,” said David Safavian, Deputy Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform. “Teens who commit serious violent offenses and pose a threat to public safety can still be prosecuted in the adult system under this no-nonsense legislation.”

House Bill 280, also known as the “Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, passed the House on Wednesday by a landslide vote of 104 – 8. Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), who introduced the bill back in March, has played a key leadership role on the reform initiative and was instrumental in its passing.

Provisions contained in the bill will protect most youth offenders from being charged as adults and carrying a criminal record into adulthood. It grants judges greater discretion in determining whether mid-level crimes should stay in the juvenile system or be transferred into adult court. Crime victims are also given a voice in the process by being able to request that the defendant be transferred to adult court.

By remaining under juvenile jurisdiction, more youth offenders in the Tar Heel State will be granted the opportunity to participate in rehabilitative programs that have proven to successfully reduce recidivism for teens. Activities such as comprehensive counseling programs, greater educational opportunities, and increased family involvement initiatives provide a stark contrast from what the current adult prison system could offer youth offenders. 

According to the Council of Children’s Rights, “North Carolina data shows a significant 7.5% decrease in recidivism when teens are adjudicated in the juvenile system, rather than as adults.”

North Carolina legislators have worked to raise the age for years. This year, supporters of the movement have welcomed in a large coalition of support from unlikely bedfellows: Non-profits such as the John Lock Foundation and the ACLU. These groups, along with law enforcement, business leaders, and religious organizations, have all come together in support of raising the age. Even North Carolina Chief Justice Mark Martin has become an outspoken advocate for HB280.

49 states plus the District of Columbia already have legislation on the books that keep most youth offenders under the juvenile justice umbrella. New York left North Carolina by itself when it passed a similar piece of legislation in early April. “North Carolinian teens who commit low-level crimes are at a far greater disadvantage in finding gainful employment compared to teens from other states who commit the same exact crimes,” added Safavian. “If you have spent time in adult prison, you are 50% less likely to get a job interview and your lifetime earning potential is reduced by 10-40%. If we are saddling our youth with these lifelong restrictions, we must be absolutely certain there is a valid reason to do so.”

The Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act now moves to the state Senate for consideration.

 

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For more information on this issue, please contact David Safavian at the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform at: (202) 347-9388, or visit our website at justice.acu.foundation


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