How Well Do You Know Juvenile Justice?

Friday, October 18, 2019 - 3:22pm

Governor Roy Cooper proclaimed this week, Oct. 13-19, as Juvenile Justice week in North Carolina. What is Juvenile Justice, though? Let’s take a quick look at this section within the Department of Public Safety and learn about the special work it carries out for the children, families and communities of our state.

What is Juvenile Justice?
The Juvenile Justice section of the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice currently works with justice-involved youth 15 years and younger at the time an alleged criminal act is committed. Beginning Dec. 1, that will increase to 17 years and younger. The change in age of juvenile jurisdiction is due to the “Raise the Age” legislation that was signed into law in 2017. Juvenile Justice staff strives to ensure public safety while connecting the children and their families to community-based programs, courts, schools, mental health, social services and law enforcement to find the right course of action based on the child’s individual circumstances. 

The Juvenile Justice section has three main units: Community Programs, Court Services and Facility Operations. These units combine to provide and implement a plan that positively prevents, intervenes and responds to the behavior of at-risk youth.

Types of Service  
Community Programs. Juvenile community programs include residential and non-residential programs focused on strengthening youth and families and supporting prevention of at-risk behaviors in youth. Many of the programs occur after school to keep the youth off the streets and engaged in productive, rehabilitative activities. Programs may be restitutive, allowing the youth to participate in a variety of community service opportunities to pay back their debt to society.

Court Services. Court counselors work to assess the risks and needs of juveniles charged with delinquent or undisciplined behaviors to provide the children and their families with a positive  course of action. In some cases the counselors work closely with the youth as well as their parent(s) or guardian to develop a diversion plan that is best suited for their situation. In other cases, a diversion plan is not an appropriate action, and their case is handled by a judge and may result in community supervision, house arrest, referral to residential care or other community-based programming, and for some secure custody at a youth development center. 

Facility Operations. Two types of facilities are operated within Juvenile Justice: Juvenile detention centers and youth development centers. North Carolina’s six state-operated and two county-operated JDCs provide secure custody to youth who are awaiting a court hearing or until placement to a YDC or other facility is determined. Youth who are adjudicated delinquent and in need of secure custody can be assigned to a YDC. North Carolina operates four YDCs within the state that provide mentoring, education and therapeutic treatment for youth.

A Few Things You May Not Have Known About Juvenile Justice

  • The North Carolina Juvenile Justice system takes a rehabilitative, rather than punitive, approach to providing services to youth. 
  • The division supports more than 600 community programs throughout the state. Every county offers at least one program aimed at assisting juvenile offenders.
  • Juvenile crime in North Carolina is down for the 10th straight year, and the juvenile crime rate is at its lowest point since the state began recording juvenile crime data
  • The division collaborates with more than 1,400 people through a variety of nonprofit organizations who help provide community programming to youth.
Dabney Weems