Before this weekend, North Carolina was the only state in the country where 16- and 17-year-olds were automatically tried in the adult court system for nonviolent offenses. As of December 1, that’s no longer the case: “Raise the Age” legislation we backed in 2017 with a broad, bipartisan group went into effect this weekend. Now, all youthful offenders below the age of 18 will be processed through the juvenile court system, with the exception of those charged with serious felonies. This change has ramifications across our state and will reduce juvenile recidivism, improve public safety and mitigate rising costs in the criminal justice system.
North Carolina’s job creators know we need to strengthen our talent pipeline and increase the availability of skilled talent if we want our workforce to stay competitive on a global scale in years to come. The Raise the Age initiative is a commonsense approach to allow young people a chance at a brighter future and fulfilling careers. By processing them through the juvenile court system, Raise the Age initiatives increase the likelihood that these juvenile offenders will successfully reform and removes the permanent limitation of an adult criminal record, making it easier for them to join and contribute to the workforce in the future.
The tangible benefits to not just North Carolina’s young people, but also to job creators, the criminal justice system, public safety officials and more are clear. That’s why the NC Chamber Legal Institute and the NC Chamber were proud to join a diverse group of stakeholders in 2017 calling for this important change. Thank you to Representative Chuck McGrady, then-Chief Justice Mark Martin, Senator Danny Britt, the North Carolina Justice Center, the ACLU, the North Carolina Division of Police Benevolent Association, North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, the John Locke Foundation, Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform, and many more for your collaboration and work on this meaningful initiative.
Ultimately, raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction is a step forward for preserving North Carolina’s competitive business climate and improving our world-class workforce, and we were proud to be a part of this solution.