Author: Matt Debnam
In 2017, when North Carolina joined a growing number of states in raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include 16- and 17-year-olds, the Division of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention entered new territory. From the outset, it was clear that Raise the Age would have profound impacts, not just for the youth of our state, but for the state’s criminal justice system as a whole.
To help implement these far-reaching reforms, the General Assembly called upon some of North Carolina’s leading minds in the field of criminal justice. The members of this Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee represented an array of disciplines - from prosecutors and public defenders to law enforcement officers and court administrators.
Together, they were charged with planning the implementation of Raise the Age and making legislative and fiscal recommendations to the General Assembly. On Dec. 9, 2022, the committee completed its five-year mission, approving its final report to the General Assembly.
“I think that this opportunity we’ve had to bring all these different disciplines together to make formal recommendations has made a difference,” said JJAC Co-Chair and retired JJDP Chief Court Counselor Bill Davis. “(Raise the Age) is something that has been a long time coming for the state of North Carolina, and I think we’ve been able to learn from other states and handle this transition successfully.”
In addition to helping the state keep up with implementation fiscally and administratively, the committee was also crucial in getting 11 pieces of follow-up legislation signed into law. This included “Raise the Floor” legislation that diverted children younger than 10 from the court system, opting instead for a system of juvenile consultations.
Before the gavel fell for the final time for the JJAC, the committee voted unanimously to add recommendations in its report to the General Assembly.
These recommendations included a statement supporting the implementation of a step pay plan and pay compression relief for JJDP employees. A second addendum, made at the motion of committee member Eric Zogry, recommended the formation of a new Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee to expand upon the framework laid by the JJAC.
“In the 25 years I’ve done juvenile justice in North Carolina, this group has been the most effective, without a doubt,” Zogry said. “From my perspective, it’s helpful to me just to hear what is going on, because we don’t have a forum – there’s no other entity that does this. For sure the heavy lifting on Raise the Age has been done, and this is a Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee, but there’s nothing preventing it from being a Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee.”
“We stayed on track with what our designated duties were, despite many opportunities to diverge,” added Committee Co-Chair Garry Frank as he thanked his fellow committee members.
Read more about the JJAC's work and recommendations in its final report to the General Assembly.