Why Raising the Age makes dollars and $ense

July 2013

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Raising the age has been a topic of conversation in North Carolina for almost 100 years.

Policymakers and other stakeholders have cited many reasons why raising the age isn’t practical: it costs too much, the state can’t afford it, it will overload the juvenile system. The fact remains that forty-eight other states have successfully raised the age, effectively sending their 16 and 17-year-olds into the juvenile system where they are receiving the rehabilitative services they need to re-enter the community with the skills to prosper. The best part? It wasn’t even that hard.

Many states have reported on their process of raising the age and the implementation of the new policy throughout their juvenile justice systems. They all seem to have two things in common: 1) that the anticipated cost of raising the age was much higher than the actual cost, and 2) that the size and scope of their juvenile system actually decreased after including 16 and 17-year-olds.

Steven Grant, Director of Juvenile and Family Services in Connecticut states that “In Connecticut, the actual cost of raising the age was much less than the projected costs”, and that “it isn’t all about coming up with new dollars, but rather re-allocating money and realigning the adult and juvenile systems”. Connecticut, like many other states, was surprised by how little raising the age actually cost them, but what surprised them even more was how much it would save them in years to come.

The recidivism rate of teenagers who enter the adult system is more than twice as high as those who go through the juvenile system. What this means is that by keeping our teenagers in the adult system, we are effectively doubling the likelihood that they will return, and at taxpayers’ expense. This cycle creates tax burdens out of potential tax payers. Individuals no longer plagued with an adult criminal record for mistakes made when they were teenagers are more likely to obtain a higher degree of education, get better paying jobs, and becoming successful, tax paying citizens in the future.

This decrease in crime does more than just help the community, it reduces the size and scope of corrections systems. For example, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission reported that “the state’s juvenile justice system is smaller now than it was before it included 17-year-olds”. This just goes to show that placing teenagers in juvenile systems that will provide them with the rehabilitative services appropriate for them leads to a reduction in the total number of offenders altogether.

The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission describes raising the age as an investment, citing that “research consistently indicates the return on investment in evidence-based interventions with juvenile offenders”. If North Carolina invests in our youth by raising the age, we can ultimately save the state millions of dollars. Raising the age is not only feasible, it is necessary for our states’ economy.

To support efforts to Raise the Age, contact your Representative TODAY. Go to www.ncleg.net, click “Who Represents Me”, and tell them to support House Bill 725. Urge them to join 48 other states and Raise the Age in North Carolina!