Improving Juvenile Justice: Finding More Effective Options for North Carolina's Young Offenders | Beaufort County Now | North Carolina is one of only two states which automatically send all 16 and 17 year-olds to the adult justice system, and does not allow juveniles to petition for juvenile court jurisdiction.

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    Publisher's note: The informative post, by Marc Levin and Jeanette Moll, originally appeared in the John Locke Foundation's online edition.

    • North Carolina is one of only two states which automatically send all 16 and 17 year-olds to the adult justice system, and does not allow juveniles to petition for juvenile court jurisdiction.

    • North Carolina does have a robust system of transfer for felony juvenile offenders, which ensures that the most serious of juvenile offenders can be tried in adult courts even if the age of juvenile court jurisdiction is raised.

    • Methods to improve the juvenile justice system in North Carolina include both adjusting the age of juvenile court jurisdiction and creating a system of blended sentencing, which would permit juvenile courts to hand down sentences including terms in both a juvenile facility and the adult system.

    • Adult court jurisdiction of juveniles does not deter juvenile crime: studies of crime rates before and after the enactment of criminal court jurisdiction of juveniles show no decrease in crime rates, increased crime rates, or decreased crime rates but smaller decreases than in control jurisdictions.

    • Adult court jurisdiction results in poor rehabilitation of juveniles. One study found an 85 percent increase in re-arrest rates amongst juveniles tried in the adult court system over those retained in the juvenile justice system.

    • A review of studies on recidivism found an average 33.7 percent increase in re-arrest rates when juveniles were placed in the adult court system.

    • Re-arrest rates amongst minors in North Carolina's adult justice system are higher than those for any other age group, and even low-risk minors in the criminal justice system had re-arrest rates twice as high as low risk offenders aged 18-21.

    • Research points to higher victimization rates amongst minors in criminal justice systems in both sexual and physical violence, and suggests a higher risk of suicide for youths in adult systems.

    • Minors in criminal justice systems have less access to education and other age-specific programming than those in the juvenile justice system, putting them at a serious disadvantage upon release.

    • Any apparent savings from keeping 16-17 year olds in the adult system are are ultimately overwhelmed by the costs associated with higher rates of recidivism and revocations.

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