A new North Carolina law, Raise the Age, keeps 16 and 17-year-old kids with disabilities in the juvenile court system where they have access to much-needed educational and behavioral resources.

DRNC recently advocated to help non-violent 16 and 17-year-old offenders with intellectual, developmental, or behavioral disabilities stay in juvenile court rather than be sent to adult court. Going into the adult court system is traumatizing and can lead to a life-long criminal record that prevents people with disabilities from earning a living.

We helped change the law by meeting with NC legislators to tell them about how kids’ disabilities impact their lives. For instance, we explained how they are more vulnerable to peer pressure. They also are more likely to make impulsive decisions. Statistics show that most children living in youth detention centers have at least one behavioral health diagnosis. Statistics also show that students with disabilities are more likely than their non-disabled peers to be referred to juvenile court for problems that occur in school.

Our policy team often works with legislators to make sure they understand issues that impact people with disabilities and what is needed to meet their needs.  Fighting for changes in the legal system to support North Carolinians with disabilities is an important part of our work and the state’s protection and advocacy agency.