Raise-The-Age legislation takes effect Dec. 1st in North Carolina

16 and 17-year-olds no longer automatically charged as adults

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Raise the Age legislation will become law throughout North Carolina on December 1, 2019. North Carolina is one of the last states to enact raise the age.

Leaders at the Council for Children’s Rights want to spread the word about it so people in the community can know what to expect. The Council for Children’s Rights offers free legal representation for youthful offenders and is an advocate for families. When the legislation becomes law, 16 and 17 year old youth offenders who commit a misdemeanor will not be automatically charged as an adult. The age has been raised to 18. Leaders from the Council for Children’s Rights believe this new law will make a difference in the lives of young people.

“It’s going to impact the children’s lives in such a way,” Interim Executive Director Heather Johnson said. “Not only to reduce recidivism, but to give children the opportunities to be integrated into this community in ways with mentor-ship, job opportunities, better educational programming opportunities - so that their life is not ended with one decision that may have been made at 15 or 16.”

Studies show 79% of the youthful offenders aged 16 and 17 years old in North Carolina have been accused of a misdemeanor, 18% accused of low level felonies and 3% accused of serious felons. Johnson believes those numbers prove the young people deserve another chance.

“With this legislation,” Johnson said. “We’re giving kids back that opportunity for that upward mobility to be a member of our community.”

Johnson says the 16 and 17 years introduced to the judicial system are shaken. They want to learn from their decision and not have a criminal record follow them.

“They are so fearful that this one bad mistake that you mentioned,” Johnson said. “Is going to define them for the rest of their lives.”

Council for Children’s Rights says it is expecting to encounter about 2,000 more young people because of the new law. The new law requires resources - resources the council is trying to get.

“We are going to represent these kids,” Johnson said. “We definitely need more staff. We want more social workers. We need more advocates out there really establishing those pathways to the program.”

The State has not passed a full budget yet. Since the budget is in limbo - support staff positions have not been filled. WBTV asked Johnson is the state ready for the new law.

“I think we are trying,” Johnson said. “It’s tricky to get it all in place. We need more funding.”

While the Council waits on a budget it will be hosting events to educate the public about Raise the Age. On December 2nd, the council will host its first Children’s Rights Forum. The guest speaker will be Van Jones. Leaders consider Jones a thought leader.

“We selected Van Jones because in part Raise the Age,” Director of Advancement Amy Tribble said. “It goes into effect Dec. 1st and he will be here Dec. 2nd to talk about justice reform issues. He is a leader in those issues and we felt he would be perfect to bring awareness to the issue of Raise the Age.”

The council is also having a forum discussing Raise the Age. It will talk about myths associated with the new law. It will take place November 7th at 5PM - 7PM at Resident Culture Brewing Company 2101 Central Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205.

If interested in attending the event with Van Jones, click here.

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