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‘Smart on Crime’ Reform — Successful in 48 Other States — Moves to Senate


(Raleigh) – May 21, 2014 – A bipartisan bill to ‘Raise the Age’ of juvenile jurisdiction (HB725) won a floor vote in the NC House today — a major milestone. Members from both parties and from different political views voiced strong support for a measure that will make communities safer, save taxpayers money, and improve outcomes for children. The legislation now moves to the NC Senate.

North Carolina is one of only two states that automatically prosecutes all 16- and 17-yr-old alleged misdemeanants as adults, even for low-level offenses like stealing a bag of Doritos. HB725 will “Raise the Age” of youth jurisdiction, so that 16- and 17-year olds who commit misdemeanors are handled in the juvenile system.

Coalition proponents, including national and statewide conservative to progressive groups, vow to eventually move the bill to the governor’s desk for signature into law:

Bill sponsor Rep. Marilyn Avila (R-Wake), a tireless advocate who shepherded the legislation, said after the vote: “On behalf of thousands, I thank the members of the NC House who voted today to make the state’s communities safer and save millions of dollars with a wise change to the way that it treats 16- and 17- years-olds charged with misdemeanors. The Raise the Age bill — HB725 — will lead to both significant fiscal savings and much better outcomes for children and families. Speaking for our bipartisan coalition, I look forward to the full General Assembly eventually approving ‘Raise the Age’ legislation, HB725, and sending this smart on crime reform already endorsed by 48 other states to Gov. McCrory.”

Brandy Bynum of NC Child praised NC House leaders: “With this vote, North Carolina has gone a long way toward protecting and leveling the playing field for its young people. We have strongly affirmed the importance of family and community in getting underage misdemeanants back on track. For this, we owe a huge thanks to primary bill sponsor Rep. Marilyn Avila, Speaker Thom Tillis, Minority Leader Rep. Larry Hall and lawmakers of all political stripes. We salute their bipartisan approach to doing what’s right for North Carolina’s kids.”

Craig DeRoche, president of Justice Fellowship, wrote to legislators before the vote urging passage. After the vote he said: “We thank the leaders and members of the NC House who acted today to make the state’s communities safer and save millions of dollars with a change to the way that it treats 16- and 17- year-olds charged with misdemeanors. We have seen this policy in many other states lead to both fiscal savings, and, more importantly, the restoration of children’s lives. We encourage members of the NC Senate to also pass this smart-on-crime reform and send it to Gov. McCrory.”

Evelyn Murray, executive director of the North Carolina Faith & Freedom Coalition, noted: “We salute lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, particularly those who made this historic vote possible, Speaker Thom Tillis and primary bill sponsor Rep. Marilyn Avila.”

Reps. Moffitt, D. Hall, and Mobley joined Rep. Avila in sponsoring the bill. House members also received pro-reform commentary from District Court Judge Marcia Morey and Frank Palombo, former New Bern Chief of Police and President of the NC Association of Police Chiefs, as well as supportive statements from the likes of Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan.

Marc Levin of Right on Crime and the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation co-authored a policy report on the topic issued by the John Locke Foundation. Today, Levin noted: “I am pleased that North Carolina policymakers are increasingly recognizing that high school-aged youngsters who commit a misdemeanor belong in the juvenile justice system where better outcomes for public safety and taxpayers can be achieved. Only in the juvenile system do parents of a 16 or 17 year-old have the right to be informed and involved. It is for these reasons that North Carolina is one of only two states where 16 year-olds are automatically sent to the adult criminal justice system. Fortunately, policymakers are coming together to ensure that these young misdemeanants are held accountable in the juvenile system where the evidence shows they can more effectively be reformed, making North Carolina safer.”

Newt Gingrich and Prison Fellowship Ministries’ Pat Nolan earlier endorsed NC’s raise the age bill in an op-ed, noting: “By “raising the age” of how we punish and straighten out kids who make minor mistakes, North Carolina will help these kids turn their lives around, will make neighborhoods safer and in the process will save taxpayers’ money. That is being smart on crime.”

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The mission of NC Child is to advance public policies that improve the lives of North Carolina’s children. We work statewide to ensure that all children are healthy, safe, well-educated, and economically secure by engaging communities and informing and influencing decision-makers.

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