The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts is developing a Toolkit for chief district court judges and other stakeholders to implement School Justice Partnerships. The Toolkit provides resources to help community partners develop and implement the School Justice Partnership, including action lists, timelines, a model agreement, and templates for other necessary documents. The School Justice Partnership (SJP) is a group of community stakeholders – including school administrators, the law enforcement community, court system actors, juvenile justice personnel, and others – that develops and implements effective strategies to address student misconduct. SJPs work to reduce the number of suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to the justice system by timely and constructively addressing student misconduct when and where it happens, helping students succeed in school and preventing negative outcomes for both youth and their communities. Learn more here.
Last Friday, Governor Roy Cooper signed a proclamation celebrating that 16 and 17 year olds will no longer be tried in adult court for misdemeanor charges. While teens accused of violent felonies and some drug crimes may still be charged as adults, the progress made towards raising the age is certainly something to celebrate. The change will take effect in 2019.
Cooper also signed Senate Bill 445 into law. This law reduces the wait time for criminal record expungement for first time, nonviolent offenders. Previously, the wait time was 15 years for all offenses. The law has now changed the waiting period to 10 years for nonviolent felonies and 5 years for nonviolent misdemeanors.
On Tuesday, May 2nd, Mecklenburg County Commissioners approved a resolution to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham brought the resolution forward with strong bipartisan support.
On May 1, a press conference was hosted by Chief Justice Mark Martin to discuss efforts to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction in North Carolina. Those in attendance included a sampling of judges, attorneys, community and advocacy organizations, DPS officials, and faith leaders. The press conference follows the recent development of North Carolina becoming the only state in nation to automatically try 16 and 17 year olds in adult court. Various speakers shared their support including former Lieutenant Governor Jim Gardner, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison, U.S Magistrate Judge William Webb, and Representative Murray.
Some facts shared about Raise the Age included that a recent Civitas poll indicated that 70 percent of North Carolinians supported raising the age, and that a DPS survey indicated that over 90 percent of parents already thought that 18 was the age of jurisdiction. The effort to raise the age now has the support of the John Locke Foundation, Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform, the Sheriff’s Association, the Chief of Police Association, and the NC Police Benevolent Association.
A more emotional appeal came from former Governor Lieutenant Gardner, who said that he was offering his support as a grandfather of 9 children. He shared his belief that mistakes made as children should not follow individuals throughout adulthood, and that raising the age was “long overdue.”
The Wake County Board of Commissioners is the latest group to join the growing list of supporters for raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction in North Carolina. According to Indy Weekly, the commissioners stressed that teenagers should be allowed to make mistakes that do not follow them the rest of their lives.
A bipartisan bill was filed in the North Carolina House of Representatives on March 8. The Commission does not typically weigh in on legislative matters unless they are of particular importance to the citizens it represents. Commissioner Matt Calabria was quoted saying, “I do not think this is about being soft on crime, but it’s about doing the smart thing.”
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison was also at the press conference to show his support for raising the age.