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Saturday, December 31, 2011

whether adolescent offenders should be prosecuted in the juvenile or adult system is important

The question of whether adolescent offenders should be prosecuted in the juvenile or adult system is important

Most states’ juvenile justice systems have two main goals: increased public safety and the rehabilitation of
adolescent off enders to prevent future crime. Policymakers and others need balanced information about
the most eff ective ways to meet both goals.
Currently, North Carolina, New York, and Connecticut are the only states that prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds
charged with a crime in adult criminal court. The North Carolina General Assembly is addressing the question of
whether 16- and 17-year-olds charged with a crime should be prosecuted in juvenile court instead.
The question of whether adolescent offenders should be prosecuted in the juvenile or adult system is important
because off enders aged 16-24 account for 37 percent of arrests for violent crimes in the United States and North
Carolina. Policies that impact the frequency and duration of criminal activity among 16- and 17-year-olds have a
major impact on overall crime rates and public safety.
Th is Family Impact Seminar briefing report addresses the line between the juvenile and adults systems. A “family
impact perspective” on policymaking informs this report. Just as policymakers routinely consider the environmental
or economic impact of policies and programs, Family Impact Seminars help policymakers examine impact on
families by providing research fi ndings and evidence-based strategies.
Th is report consists of five briefs:
Brief 1 provides background and recent history on the handling of adolescent off enders in the United
States and North Carolina; a description of how the current North Carolina juvenile justice system works;
recent North Carolina juvenile justice statistics; and information on programs and facilities for adolescent
off enders in North Carolina and other states.
Brief 2 discusses research on youth development pertaining to three
issues central to policies for adolescent off enders: blameworthiness,
competence to stand trial, and the potential for an adolescent’s
character to change.
Brief 3 details how other states treat adolescent off enders.
Brief 4 discusses research on how juvenile crime rates respond to
changes in punishment laws.
Brief 5 presents three policy options and a series of further
Th e briefi ng report concludes with a glossary, a list of acronyms, a list of
additional resources,and a chart of the current legal age in NC for diff erent

juveniles housed in detention centers are awaiting an adjudicatory or dispositional hearing.
Four NC counties (Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, and
Mecklenburg) operate their own detention centers. The DOC has two main correctional institutions for
“youthful off enders.” Th ese facilities, where juveniles transferred to adult court are housed after conviction, are
Western Youth Institution (WYI) in Morganton (males only) and North Carolina Correctional Institute for
Women (NCCIW) in Raleigh (females only). Inmates at
WYI range in age from 13 to 25. (Historically, youthful offenders in DOC are off enders 21 years of age and under.
The inclusion of off enders ages 22 to 25 is a product of the declining youthful off ender population and the use of the
available space for older inmates.) NCCIW houses female inmates of all ages. DOC strives to separate older and younger inmates in both institutions.

North Carolina has three types of facilities for adolescent offenders: youth development centers, detention centers,
and correctional institutions.21 NCDJJDP operates five youth development centers and nine detention centers.
Th e NC Department of Correction (DOC) operates correctional institutions. Both departments also operate community-based services.

Youth development centers house off enders age 10 to 21 for one year, on average, and provide youth mentoring, education,
and treatment, with an emphasis on rehabilitation. In recent
years, NCDJJDP has adopted a number of evidence-based therapeutic programs in youth development centers.
Detention centers have fewer and more limited services and staff than youth development centers since the
majority of.
All off ending 16- and 17-year-olds would continue to be tried in the adult criminal system, regardless of their crime. If convicted, 16- and 17-year-olds would be sentenced in adult courts and would have permanent criminal records, unless they petition the
court to have their record expunged.

Note: Under current North Carolina law, expungement is available only for misdemeanor off enses committed prior to age 18, except for misdemeanor possession of
alcohol or drugs, and one, low-level felony for simple possession of cocaine.
Programming, treatment, and other services for
16- and 17-year-olds would continue to be operated by the Department of Correction and are similar to
those available to adults. Some of these services are designed specifi cally for youthful off enders.
Some Resource Considerations
Resources could remain at current levels; however,
state DOC officials would need to continue to develop programming for adolescent off enders and may be responsible for meeting federal requirements
for mental health, social services, and education.
Over the past few years, the NCDJJDP has been developing a continuum of evidence-based services, many of which are appropriate for 16- and 17-yearold
offenders. The services would generally not beavailable to young off enders in the adult system.

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