Home News Center North Carolina moves to charge most 16 and 17 year olds in juvenile court

North Carolina moves to charge most 16 and 17 year olds in juvenile court

November 29, 2017

This past summer, after many years of lobbying, advocacy and countless youth justice studies, North Carolina lawmakers agreed that teens ages 16 and 17 will no longer be automatically charged as adults for all crimes.

“Instead of saddling our kids with the consequences of a lifelong criminal record, North Carolina will provide more effective and rehabilitative services to those who desperately need it. Raising the age protects our kids from the harms of the adult criminal system, as well as our communities by reducing recidivism rates,” said Peggy Nicholson, co-director of the Youth Justice Project (YJP), an initiative of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

According to Nicholson, the state finally reached a tipping point where it was undeniable that raising the age was best for children and public safety. “This legislation catches us up to virtually all other states across the country when it comes to ensuring youth are not tried as adults,” Nicholson said.

“It is astounding that it took us this long to stop prosecuting children as adults, but this is a big moment and we applaud those who worked hard to make it happen,” said Ricky Watson Jr., co-director of YJP. “Many advocates, family members, and legislators dedicated themselves to this issue for years. Now, we need to keep moving forward and think about how we continue to ensure that the children of North Carolina get the opportunities they deserve.”

The changes will take effect December 2019, and will apply to 16- and 17-year-olds accused of misdemeanors, low-level felonies and other non-violent crimes.

What’s next for the Youth Justice Project?

The YJP recently released a report which finds that the North Carolina juvenile justice system is falling short for over 12,000 impacted children. Despite major policy advances like Raise the Age in 2017, YJP says North Carolina has a long way to go to ensure that all young people, especially youth of color, are treated fairly and equitably in our juvenile justice system. Read the report on the five major barriers facing North Carolina’s juvenile system and their solutions.

Special note:
The Youth Justice Project will host #NJJNForum2018 in Durham, North Carolina! More information to come.

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