Durham, NC — A report released today from the Youth Justice Project finds that the juvenile justice system is falling short for over 12,000 impacted children. Despite major policy advances like Raise the Age in 2017, 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.
The report highlights five major barriers facing North Carolina’s juvenile system and their solutions. These barriers include:
- developmentally inappropriate limits on juvenile court jurisdiction,
- demographic and geographic disparities,
- inadequate representation in juvenile court,
- lifelong collateral consequences stemming from juvenile court involvement, and
- punitive school policies and practices that push students into the court system.
“While we are excited that North Carolina will soon end the practice of prosecuting all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, we must continue to push for evidence-based policies that will help all kids,” said Peggy Nicholson, co-director of the Youth Justice Project. “For example, young people – particularly youth of color – are all too often referred to our court system for behaviors that historically have been left out of the courts and could be more effectively addressed through other means.”
North Carolina could dramatically improve its juvenile justice system by increasing the minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction from six to ten years old. Furthermore, school systems can reduce school suspensions, court referrals, and the associated identity disparities through the implementation of restorative justice practices and racial equity trainings. Additionally, increases in funding and specialization of attorneys representing children would ensure young people have adequate representation across the state when they are court-involved.
“We can dramatically improve the juvenile justice system here in North Carolina through a series of common sense policy changes that give our kids the opportunities they need while keeping our communities safe. We strongly encourage policymakers to review and implement these recommendations in order to ensure our young people are receiving the care they need,” said Ricky Watson, co-director of the Youth Justice Project.