youth using new tablet

Tablets broaden horizons at Juvenile Justice facilities

Author: Matt Debnam

A new Division of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention initiative will place tablet computers in the hands of justice-involved youth at all of the state’s youth development and juvenile detention centers, opening a world of new possibilities in the realms of education, behavioral health and reentry.

On Feb. 14, tablets were deployed at two of the Division’s largest facilities – C.A. Dillon Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Butner and Cabarrus Youth Development and Juvenile Detention Center in Concord. The full rollout at these facilities followed soft launches at Richmond-Jenkins JDC in Hoffman and New Hanover JDC in Castle Hayne. 

three tablets stacked on table

The project was the brainchild of Nicole Sullivan, JJDP director of reentry services, and is a partnership between her section, Juvenile Facility Operations, Juvenile Education Services and Clinical Services and Programs. Sullivan, who spent a significant portion of her career doing reentry work in adult correction, sees a tremendous opportunity for these tablets to make a positive impact in the state’s juvenile justice facilities. 

“Ideally, every youth will be touching one of these tablets throughout the course of their day and will be taking meaningful steps towards their academic or vocational goals, personal development goals and their own personal interests and leisure.” Sullivan said. “It’s a powerful tool for them to use and figure out constructive ways to manage being in the environment they’re in, while still learning, growing and developing.” 

The tablets and the underlying software to run them are provided by Orijin (formerly APDS), one of the country’s leading vendors of technology designed for correctional settings. Once this program is fully implemented, more than 500 devices will be distributed to facilities throughout the state, and NCDJJDP will be among the first juvenile justice systems in the nation to have full 1-to-1 tablet deployment at facilities systemwide. 

Services provided on these tablets will be available to all youth in JJDP facilities, at no cost to them or their families. In addition to online resources, entertainment and a full e-book library, the devices contain a vast array of programming that will help prepare youth for their next step in life after involvement with the juvenile justice system. 

education staff instructing youth on tablet use

“The Orijin tablets have a robust curriculum that works with education; cognitive behavioral therapy; and career development and exploration,” explained Casey Corey, JJDP director of education services. “They also offer an entertainment component where youth can listen to music, play games, etc.” 

On the education front, youth will be able to use the tablets to study for the HiSET (high-school equivalency) and access college prep materials, plus a wide variety of career and technical education programming. Students will also have access to financial literacy modules and career exploration resources, as well as opportunities to earn professional certifications that can go with them when they return to the community.

Beyond education, these tablets also contain programming designed to help youth develop social skills, aid in cognitive behavioral therapy, and develop an overall sense of wellness. As youth explore these topics, this can become a springboard for staff to begin positive conversations about where youth want to go in life. 

In the long run, JJDP staff will even be able to use an internal learning management system to produce and deliver unique content and programming to youth via the tablets. 

“We will be able to identify ways to communicate, educate and provide programming and training,” Sullivan said. “We can build classes and introduce innovative activities that can reach all of our youth.” 

Brittney Montgomery, the casework associate II at C.A. Dillon, is one of the champions of the tablet project at her facility, leading the charge on integrating tablets into the daily life for youth. She sees multiple benefits from the tablets, including language settings on the tablets that will help provide programming for Spanish-speaking youth in the facility.

youth using tablet

“These are going to help our students read, engage in self-awareness activities and build career skills - the youth will be able to broaden their horizons.” Montgomery said. “I also like the fact that we can switch the language up. We have Hispanic youth coming into our facility, and we have to use a translator sometimes, so it is great to have these materials in Spanish.”

“We felt that if we could put these in our students’ hands, it would enhance their experience within our facilities,” Corey added. “It offers an array of programs that are holistically beneficial for our kids.”

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