Raising the Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction in North Carolina
In response to heightened perceptions of youth crime, in the 1970s a number of U.S. states passed laws allowing the prosecution of more teenagers as adults. While many such decisions were subsequently reversed, some states continue to send certain juvenile offenders to adult courts.
At the request of the North Carolina General Assembly, in 2011 the Vera Institute of Justice issued a report, “Cost-Benefit Analysis of Raising the Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction” (PDF). The state had allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to be prosecuted as adults and the analysis, conducted in July 2010, assessed the economic impact of raising the age to 18. It also looked at the costs of transferring teenagers who had committed only misdemeanor or nonviolent felony offenses, and who are currently in adult prisons, into the juvenile system.
The study’s findings include:
- The annual benefit of raising the age from 16 to 18 for alleged misdemeanants and low-level felons is estimated to be $52.3 million.
- Recidivism for 16- and 17-year-olds would be reduced by at minimum 10% by transferring that population to the juvenile system.
- The reduction in recidivism will prevent approximately 1,700 victimizations associated with misdemeanor arrests and 737 fewer victimizations related to felony arrests.
- Due to fewer victimizations, raising the age will avoid nearly $4 million in associated costs annually.
The author’s findings strongly indicate that raising the age of juvenile prosecution, as well as transferring juveniles out of adult prisons, will ultimately produce greater benefits than costs.
Tags: crime, law, prisons, youth
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the Vera Institute of Justice study "Cost-Benefit Analysis of Raising the Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction in North Carolina.”
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related New York Times article "States Prosecute Fewer Teenagers in Adult Courts."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.