‘Raise The Age’ law could expand community justice service program

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — North Carolina is giving juveniles a second chance with the ‘Raise the Age’ law. The new law makes 16 and 17-year-olds youthful offenders.

“This law change makes everybody more safe because the street has always been an equal opportunity employer and, if we are not careful with how we handle young people’s cases at teachable moments, then we are forever altering the trajectory of their lives,” Ben David, the District Attorney for New Hanover and Pender counties, said.

It’s a law to help teenagers by keeping some felonies and misdemeanors from following them for the rest of their lives.

“90 plus percent of the juveniles coming into our criminal justice system were charged with non-violent felonies and misdemeanors,” David said.

Non-violent felonies and misdemeanors include crimes like shoplifting or drug possession. David says he was a strong advocate for raising this juvenile age. He says this law will give 16 and 17-year-olds a chance to join military, go to college and live in public housing without challenges like in the past. But to be clear, this law is not a get out of jail free card.

“For young people who are 16, they’re adults on the highway so, if you’re talking about DWI or fleeing to allude arrest or any of those other crimes that show up in the adult system, those are automatically charged as adult crimes,” David said.

Violent crimes like rape and murder will also go straight to adult court.

But, as the county works to rebuild and expand its juvenile justice building, the community justice service program is also growing. County commissioners approved a full-time position to help with the expected increase in the number of older teens entering the juvenile justice system. A grant from the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council will pay for the position. The county expects grant dollars will continue to pay fro this position on an ongoing basis.

“We’re looking to directly expand our job skill development program so they’re going to work with the youth to develop the soft skills that are needed to be successful in the employment market,” Chris Preston, the Community Justices Services Director, said.

The goal is to get them on the right path while still holding them accountable.

Categories: Local, New Hanover