The first two pillars outlined in North Carolina Vision 2030 – the NC Chamber Foundation’s forward-thinking, initiative-driven plan that provides focused economic development strategies – are “education and talent supply” and “competitive business climate.” Continually strengthening North Carolina’s education and talent supply and consistently striving to maintain a competitive business climate are both essential to improving North Carolina’s economic prosperity now and into the future. “Raise the age” measures like Senate Bill 146, Senate Bill 549, Senate Bill 564 and House Bill 280 would serve to bolster both pillars by increasing the likelihood of successful reform for juvenile offenders and fostering a more streamlined legal system. Specifically, these measures would update North Carolina law so that all youthful offenders below the age of 18 are processed through the juvenile court system rather than being automatically prosecuted as an adult – with the exception of those charged with serious felonies.
North Carolina is the only state in our nation to charge 16 and 17 year olds as adults. Not only would raise the age measures bring North Carolina into alignment with the rest of the country but they would also reduce juvenile recidivism, improve public safety and mitigate rising costs in North Carolina’s criminal justice system. Further, the tangible benefits for job creators are clear as raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction will largely improve the chances that juvenile offenders will one day contribute their talents to our state’s workforce and aid the state’s competitive advantage by strengthening North Carolina’s legal system.
Earlier this month, I joined North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin, legislators from both sides of the aisle and leaders in law enforcement, business and education for a press conference to express our support for enacting raise the age legislation. Last year, the NC Chamber’s Legal Institute first voiced support for raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction following the release of the “Juvenile Reinvestment” report, which called on the General Assembly to institute reform. Subsequently, we sent a letter to Chief Justice Mark Martin backing the report’s recommendations – recommendations we still endorse. As we work to produce a globally competitive workforce and improve the North Carolina’s competitive standing, enacting legislative measures like these is fundamental.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber