Raise the Age - NC

What is the Raise the Age Initiative?

What is the Raise the Age Initiative?

Prior to the 2017 session of the N.C. General Assembly, North Carolina was the one remaining state in the United States that automatically charged individuals 16-years-old and above in the adult criminal justice system. Years of perseverance, research, study and education on this topic brought together a strong, bipartisan coalition of support for Raise the Age in 2017 that included all three branches of government – executive, judicial and legislative – as well as law enforcement and advocacy organizations. During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction for nonviolent crimes to age 18, effective Dec. 1, 2019. 

Where can I learn more about the new law that raises the age in North Carolina? Why should we raise the age?

Why should we raise the age?

Though raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction carries a short-term price-tag, it promises a long-term economic benefit to North Carolina. Much of this comes from the 7.5 percent reduction in recidivism when teens are adjudicated in the juvenile vs. the adult system, with avoided future costs of imprisonment, and the ability of individuals with no criminal record to increase their earnings and career prospects.

Two separate studies authorized by the North Carolina General Assembly indicate that raising the juvenile age will produce significant economic benefits for North Carolina and its citizens:

  • In 2009, the Governor’s Crime Commission Juvenile Age Study submitted to the General Assembly included a cost-benefit analysis of raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18. The analysis, done by ESTIS Group, LLC, found that the age change would result in a net benefit to the state of $7.1 million.
  • In 2011, the Youth Accountability Planning Task Force submitted its final report to the General Assembly. The Task Force’s report included a cost-benefit analysis, done by the Vera Institute of Justice, of prosecuting 16 and 17-year-old misdemeanants and low-level felons in juvenile court. That report estimated net benefits of $52.3 million.

Per the Juvenile Reinvestment Report developed by the N.C. Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice, evidence-based research suggests that adolescents are less culpable than adults; the majority of young people who commit criminal acts age out of said behavior with full maturity; and that working to strengthen family support systems, academic performance and job skills (that occurs within the juvenile justice system) is more effective in reducing recidivism among young people.

Nearly 100 years ago, the current age of juvenile jurisdiction was set to end at 16-years of age, and has remain unchanged ever since. Since that time, brain development research shows that the frontal cortex section of the brain, which helps with impulse control, is one of the last parts to develop. Research shows the brain is fully developed in males by age 25, or around age 22-23 for females. This means that all teens, including those aged 16-17, are more likely to:

  • Act before thinking or act on impulse
  • Participate in sensation-seeking behavior
  • Seek out risky activities
  • Need approval of peers
  • Need instant gratification
  • Exclude thoughts of the future
How is the juvenile justice system different than the adult system?

How is the juvenile justice system different than the adult system?

  • Unlike the adult correction system, all records and proceedings in the juvenile justice system are confidential; this means that minor crimes committed while young will not impact an individual's ability to attain employment or attend college later in life.
  • Parents are required to be involved in the juvenile justice system; very little parental involvement occurs within the adult criminal justice system.
  • The juvenile justice system is staffed with professionals knowledgeable in adolescent behavior and juvenile-specific programming that is unavailable in the adult system. Juvenile Justice offers an array of interventions that are juvenile-specific and works with community leaders to promote community programming that is responsive to locally identified trends. Programming is responsive to the juvenile’s individualized risk and needs, maintaining the least restrictive environment consistent with public safety. These resources available through juvenile justice are time intensive, and targeted to reduce recidivism of juveniles with developing brains.
Is the Department of Public Safety in favor of raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction?

Is the Department of Public Safety in favor of raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction?

Officials with the N.C. Department of Public Safety, Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, were strongly in favor of raising the age under the following circumstances:

  • State and local juvenile justice staff must be given adequate funding to enable them to offer their continuum of services to 16- and 17-year-olds, as well as those juveniles already involved in the system.
  • Additionally, state officials must be given adequate time to plan and fully implement the initiative; it is believed that Juvenile Justice officials will need three years to plan how to implement the initiative; construct a new youth development center; train state and local officials; and phase implementation to appropriately and properly put this plan into place in North Carolina.

Other partners who have endorsed the Raise the Age Initiative include:

  • Administrative Office of the Courts
  • N.C. Sheriffs' Association
  • N.C. Police Benevolent Association
  • N.C. Association of Chiefs of Police
  • N.C. Chamber Legal Institute
  • N.C. Magistrates Association
  • N.C. Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission
  • Office of Indigent Defense Services
  • N.C. Association of County Commisioners
  • Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform
  • John Locke Foundation
Where can I find more information about Raise the Age?