OJD Week in Review: Dec. 4-8

This week is we’ve just got lots of upcoming training announcements and… an update on Raise the Age!

Training, Training, and More Training

TRAINING--DEVELOPMENTOn Dec. 14, juvenile defenders have the opportunity to fill their afternoon with two sessions of training, one online and one in-person.  The Office of the Juvenile Defender and North Carolina Advocates for Justice will be hosting a free juvenile defense CLE in Courtroom 1 of the Wayne County Courthouse on 224 E. Walnut St. in Goldsboro, N.C.  The training, titled “Juvenile Defense – Effective Representation Now and For the Future”, will be held from 1-4 p.m. and a networking lunch will be provided from 12-1.  Three CLE credit hours will be earned by participants.  Please RSVP with Valerie Pearce by email or call 919-667-3369.  And starting at 4 p.m. EST, the National Juvenile Justice Network will be hosting a one-hour webinar titled “Police-Youth Engagement: Working on the Front Lines”, to discuss improving relationships between youth, police, and the community.  You can register for the webinar here.

The Southern Juvenile Defender Center has recently announced that it will be holding the 2018 SJDC Regional Summit on June 8-9 in Columbia, S.C.  The University of South Carolina School of Law will be hosting the event.  Registration and agenda details will be coming soon.

Registration is now open for the Judicial Institute on Domestic Child Sex Trafficking.  Hosted by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in collaboration with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and Rights4Girls, this interactive training will include hypothetical scenarios, case scenarios, lectures, small group discussions, and practical courtroom exercises focused on the issue of child sex trafficking in the U.S.  This free training will be held in Asheville on Feb. 12-14.  Judges and judicial officers are encouraged to register here.

On the Way to Raise the Age

JJAC

The first meeting of the Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee was held Monday, December 4, 2017.  The Committee, formed under the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (“Raise the Age”), is tasked to develop a specific plan for the implementation of raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction, including costs and other policy recommendations.  Co-chaired by retired Wilkes County Chief Court Counselor Bill D. Davis and District 22B District Attorney Garry Frank, the Committee heard several presentations, including the work of the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice that led to the most recent legislation, the rationale and data behind the policy considerations to raise the age, and further legislative, planning and policy considerations for implementation.  An interim report is due to the General Assembly March 1, 2018, and the next meetings will be held January 11, 2018 and February 5, 2018.  More information about the Committee may be found here.

That is all we have for you today.  On the note of N.C.’s plan to raise the age, we would like to encourage all juvenile justice advocates to reach out and share your opinions, whether you’ve got a piece you want to share on our blog or an idea or shout-out on Twitter or Facebook, please reach out!  And on a side note, in case you missed it, we posted a new podcast discussing Capital Area Teen Court on SoundCloud the week of Thanksgiving, so check it out.  Be sure to check back with us next week for more news and updates.

“‘Raise the Age’ is Now the Law in North Carolina” by Professor LaToya Powell

From the “On the Civil Side” blog, Professor LaToya Powell has posted a new article regarding Raise the Age in North Carolina.  In this article, Professor Powell breaks down the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, discussing recommendations from the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice, adjustments to NCCALJ’s recommendations that were included in the final bill, and a short but detailed summary of each section of the law, including when each part will go into effect.  In her summary, Professor Powell also acknowledges some issues with the language of the bill.  Please take a moment to read the full post here.

 

Chief Justice Addresses #RaisetheAgeNC Again at Press Conference

On Monday, Chief Justice Mark Martin held a press conference at the N.C. Legislative Building to offer updates and remind the public of the importance of North Carolina raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction.  Martin and other speakers revisited the benefits of the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, House Bill 280, which was introduced in March, and echoed the recommendations on juvenile justice reinvestment presented in the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice’s final report.

As expected, after the attention H280 received in March and the recent move by New York to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction, there was tremendous support again for N.C. to move forward with the bill.  Judge Martin was joined by Former Rep. Tom Murry, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison, Former Lt. Gov. James Gardner, Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, Former Chief District Court Judge Marcia Morey, who now has a seat in the N.C. House of Representatives, along with several others in support of raising the age.

RTA

Chief Justice Martin stated that over 90 percent of parents thought that the maximum age for juvenile jurisdiction was already 18, and while there are 11 counties where young people are diverted to the juvenile system, 89 still remain where they are not.

Comparisons were made to other states, illustrating the disadvantages youth in N.C. face when measured against states such as Tennessee, where young people under the age of 18 are not automatically turned over to criminal court for minor offenses.  Former Lt. Gov. Gardner even pointed out how competitive the job market already is for young people today, whether they have been involved in the justice system or not, referring to his grandson who is an Eagle Scout with no criminal record.

Sheriff Harrison stated that he believed raising the age is needed in N.C., but he also acknowledged that money would be needed to make the necessary transitions.  He emphasized his belief in the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act saying, “I think this initiative will stop some crime… I know it will.”

Murry drove home the point, saying, “We already have Raise the Age in every state.  Now we need to bring the promise to N.C.

Additionally, with the anniversary of In re Gault close at hand, William Lassiter, Deputy Commissioner of Juvenile Justice at the N.C. Dept. of Public Safety stated, “The Gault decision was one of the precursors to raising the age.  It really has effected how the juvenile justice system has been set up in our country, and North Carolina is kind of lagging behind because we haven’t raised the age.  So, it would be sweet justice if we could pass Raise the Age on the 50th anniversary of Gault.”

NCCALJ Presents Final Report to the Chief Justice

On March 15th, the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice (NCCALJ) released its final report to Chief Justice Mark Martin during a ceremony at the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Chieft Justice Receives Final Report

The NCCALJ was convened by Chief Justice Martin in September 2015, tasked with reviewing the N.C. Judicial System and making recommendations for improving the administration of justice.  The sixty-five members of the Commission were divided into five committees, with each committee presenting its own final assessment in one of five areas after conducting thorough research, consulting with experts, and engaging in collaborative discussions, as well as gathering input from the public.

This report includes the recommendation to raise the juvenile age to 18 for all crimes except violent felonies and traffic offenses.  You can review our previous summary of this recommendation for the juvenile reinvestment plan on our blog, or you can also view the Criminal Investigation and Adjudication Committee’s final report here.

In addition to the recommendation to raise the juvenile age, the Criminal Investigation and Adjudication Committee’s report includes recommendations for improving indigent defense services, pretrial justice and criminal case management.  The other committees cover Legal Professionalism, Public Trust and Confidence, Technology and Civil Justice.

“The Commission’s recommendations create a framework for dramatic, systemic improvement in the administration of justice in North Carolina,” said Chief Justice Martin.  “The work of this blue-ribbon Commission will help ensure that North Carolina’s Judicial Branch meets the needs and expectations that the people of North Carolina have for fair, modern and impartial courts.”

The N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, along with other components of the Judicial Branch, will implement the Commission’s recommendations.

For more information, you can find the final report and the appendices here.  For inquiries from the media, please contact Sharon Gladwell at sharon.e.gladwell@nccourts.org or 919-890-1394.

#RaisetheAgeNC is Becoming a Reality with Introduction of New Bill

Since 2007, seven states have changed their laws to include youth 16 and 17 years of age in the juvenile justice system, cutting the number of youth in the criminal justice system in half nationwide and without any detrimental effects on the wallets of taxpayers.  North Carolina and New York still remain the only two states that treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.

Image result for raise the age map

Today, House Bill 280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, which raises the age to include juveniles 16 and 17 years of age in the North Carolina juvenile justice system, was introduced to the legislator and announced during a press conference.  Representative Chuck McGrady stated that “besides being the right thing to do, this bill was also fiscally the right thing to do” because it would save the state money in the long term.

“They did what they did, and parents would come to court and plead their children guilty every day because it was the right thing to do to take responsibility for their actions, and they have no inclination because they have no training and they assume that juvenile jurisdiction ends at 18, but they have no idea that they are putting a permanent mark that is an economic disincentive to the youth of our state,” said Judge Marion Warren, Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts and a former district court judge who presided over hundreds of juvenile cases.  Judge Warren shared the statistic that 96.7 percent of crimes committed by 16- and 17-year-old offenders were for misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes. “This process brought the people together to see exactly what it was doing to our state.  North Carolina cannot be last…  North Carolina always finds itself as a leader on the position for self-improvement, introspection, and thought.  Now is the time to raise the juvenile age.  It is time to support House Bill 280.”

Representative Duane Hall, who noted his support of the issue the past decade, said that the bill had tremendous bipartisan support.  Representative Hall said that before he was a member of the Legislature, he worked as an attorney representing children for small, first-time offenses.  He stated that he had teenagers who came to him in tears because they would not have the opportunity to pursue their desired careers in military or obtain financial aid because of the permanent consequences that followed them for the smallest offenses.

Representative Kelly Alexander said that he and his colleagues of the Legislative Black Caucus on both the Senate and House sides have had an interest in juvenile justice for a long time and they supported the change 100 percent.

William Lassiter, Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Juvenile Justice, said that the cost savings estimated for N.C. as a result of the bill could be in the range of $7 million to $50 million, depending on the economic contribution of each juvenile that would be effected in the justice system based on their ability to obtain a diploma, college degree, and be taxpaying citizens.  He said that just by keeping kids in the juvenile justice system there are lower rates of recidivism, which is the major factor in cost reduction for the state.  He mentioned that for nine years in a row now there has been a 30 percent decline in juvenile crime rates.  There has been a reduction in 16 and 17 year olds on probation from about 8,000 to less than 2,000 in the past decade under adult supervision because of improvements in the juvenile justice system every day.

When asked what improvements in the bill gained the support of law enforcement, Judge Warren said that he believed that the two most significant changes were the ability to transfer A-E felonies to criminal court, which would be more to the benefit of the community than to the juvenile, and a prepetition diversion, which allowed other stakeholders to get involved in putting a child on the right path.

According to the latest report from the Justice Policy Institute released on March 7th, despite concerns that the intake of these youth into the juvenile justice system would ultimately overwhelm the states that raised the age and significantly increase the costs to taxpayers, it was proven that by applying better practices these issues could be easily alleviated.  Programs to assist youth in getting past delinquency and reducing recidivism for them in turn reduced the need for confinement and increased public safety.  Fewer prisons are needed as a result of youth being taken out of the criminal justice system and juveniles are also safer when they are not being incarcerated with adults, which would put them at risk of being sexually assaulted.

In the past decade, North Carolina has halved the number of youth admitted to detention centers.  The North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice Committee on Criminal Investigation and Adjudication reported that, because the Division of Juvenile Justice has shifted to more effective youth justice practices, they have already produced millions of dollars in cost savings to help implement raise the age.

Contact OJD for more information about H280 and juvenile jurisdiction.