History of the North Carolina Juvenile Justice System

HistoryThe Beginning. In the 18th century, children accused of crimes were treated much like adults. Over time, incarceration became favored over executive and other punishments, though that brought concerns about housing children with older, more serious offenders. The push for a separate juvenile justice system in North Carolina began in the early 19th century. Reformers known as "child savers" led the movement after noticing a need to protect children from the influences of adult prisoners. These reformers believed that treating child offenders was more important than punishing them. Rehabilitation and discipline, they thought, benefited both the child and society. Reforms such as this set the framework for North Carolina's current system, one dedicated to the best interest of children and to the protection of the community.

Early Years. The push for a separate juvenile justice system in North Carolina began in the early 19th century. Reformers known as "child savers" led the movement after noticing a need to protect children from the influences of adult prisoners.

These reformers believed that treating child offenders was more important than punishing them. Rehabilitation, they thought, benefited both the child and society. Reforms such as this set the framework for North Carolina's current system.

The framework for a separate court system for juveniles in North Carolina was established in 1868. (Betty Gene Alley, 1994) Innovative legislation regulating juvenile offenders followed. The first important piece of legislation was the Probation Courts Act of 1915. This bill set new precedents for handling juvenile offenders, including:

  • Establishing separate categories of "dependent" and "delinquent" juveniles
  • Employing probation officers for juveniles
  • Putting youth offenders on probation
  • Committing juvenile offenders to a state or county training school
  • Providing separate trials for juveniles
  • Separating juvenile criminal records
  • Preventing youth contact with older and more hardened criminals by placing them in separate facilities.

These points were later incorporated into the Juvenile Court Statute of 1919.

The act called for facilities that housed and trained only youth. In 1909, Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School, the first facility for juveniles, opened. In 1918, Samarkand Manor opened as the first State Home and Industrial School for Girls. In the 59 years between 1909 and 1968, the state established and operated eight training schools, as part of the state prison system.

Training Schools/Youth Development Centers Opened Disposition
Stonewall Jackson School, Concord 1909 Still in use
Samarkand Manor, Eagle Springs 1918 closed 2011
Cameron Morrison School, Hoffman 1925 transferred to DOC, 1977
Richard T. Fountain School, Rocky Mount 1926 transferred to DOC, 1976
Dobbs School, Kinston
            Lenoir Complex
1947
2008
still in use
closed 2013
Samuel Leonard School, McCain 1959 transferred to DOC, 1974
Juvenile Evaluation Center, Swannanoa 1961  transferred to DOC, 2011
C.A. Dillon School, Butner 1968 still in use
Chatham Youth Development Center 2008 still in use
Edgecombe Youth Development Center 2008 closed 2012;
reopened 2016

All state juvenile facilities were supervised and funded independently until 1943, when the General Assembly created the statewide Board of Correction and Training to administer a unified Training School system, the Board of Juvenile Correction.

1960s - present