By Brandy Bynum
The NC Legislature was in session from May 14 through August 20. Major issues in the 2014 legislative session included financing the $445 million state budget shortfall, teacher pay, Medicaid and coal ash ponds. Below are legislative changes that occurred within Justice and Public Safety.
HB 725—Young Offenders Rehabilitation Act aka Raise the Age, which raises the age of juvenile jurisdiction for all 16- and 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors, passed the House on an overwhelming bipartisan vote (77 to 39). Sadly, the Senate failed to take up the bill, which means a new bill needs to be introduced next session (2015). North Carolina remains one of only two states that automatically prosecutes all 16- and 17-year-old alleged misdemeanants as adults, even for low-level offenses like stealing a bag of Doritos.
Section 4 of House Bill 217 (Criminal Law/Procedure Amendments, Transfer of Jurisdiction of Juvenile to Superior Court)–, Section 4 of HB 217 removes judicial discretion for certain felonies (B1 & B2) allegedly committed by youth 15-years-old. Just by a written motion signed by the elected or appointed district attorney for the district, section 4 of HB217 gives prosecutors the power to prosecute youth 15-year-olds in the adult criminal court system and relinquishes juvenile court judges’ discretion. Fortunately, this bill did not become law as it never made it out of Senate Judiciary Committee.
Indigent Defense Services (IDS) Administrative Funding—IDS administrative funding was cut by $466,000. UPDATE: IDS has absorbed this disastrous cut, fortunately not resulting in the loss of staff positions.
NC Department of Public Safety—Division of Adult Corrections and Juvenile Justice
Juvenile Justice Facilities Strategic Plan
In April, the Division of Adult Corrections and Juvenile Justice submitted its new Facilities Strategic Plan to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety. The Facilities Plan is a “strategic vision” for the proposed operations of the juvenile justice system in North Carolina. The plan includes the following key components:
- Require that youth development centers be phased out as populations diminish;
- Close a state youth development center when its operation is no longer justified and transfer State funds appropriated for the operation of that youth development center to fund community-based programs and other evidence based programs (i.e., parenting classes, intensive case management, transitional services and crisis beds);
- Study the current youth transportation operations to enhance public safety and efficiencies; and
- Reinvest funds from closed YDCs and use existing appropriated funds to:
-Open 16 new crisis beds;
-Open five new transitional homes, totaling forty 40 beds; and
-Fund expanded reentry services.
The Division plans to implement the proposed changes over a 1-1/2 year period (beginning in November, 2014 and concluding in July, 2016).
For a link to the full plan, click here.
Brandy is a member of YJNC’s Board of Directors.