Juvenile Justice Overview

In North Carolina, if a youth is 15 years old or younger and commits a crime, his or her case will be brought to the attention of staff within the Juvenile Justice section of the N.C. Department of Public Safety, Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice. The division focuses on juvenile justice issues and at-risk youth in the state.

Thousands of youth encounter North Carolina's juvenile justice system through interaction with the Juvenile Justice Section's Juvenile Crime Prevention Council services, community programs, juvenile court services and juvenile commitment facilities.

The Juvenile Justice Section is committed to the reduction and prevention of juvenile delinquency by effectively intervening, educating and treating youth in order to strengthen families and increase public safety. Juvenile Justice goals include:

  • Fostering communities that are safe from juvenile crime.
  • Collaborating with judges, district attorneys, juvenile defense attorneys, law enforcement agencies, schools and other youth service providers to determine and provide the right program for each youth.
  • Providing safe and secure housing for youth in care and to provide programming that teaches pro-social skills.
  • Providing accurate assessment and effective treatment and education of youth.
  • Preventing youth from initial or further involvement in the juvenile justice system through partnerships with local governments and communities.

Who is served – and why – by Juvenile Justice? To fulfill its juvenile justice function, the Juvenile Justice section provides a full continuum of public safety interventions involving all children and youth ages 6-15 alleged to or have been found to have committed an undisciplined or criminal offense; in cases where youth are placed under court jurisdiction before their 16th birthday and youth require further interventions under the Juvenile Code (Chapter 7B), they may remain under juvenile justice court supervision up until their 21st birthday. DPS also serves 16 and 17-year-old youth with undisciplined complaints.

What services are provided to at-risk/delinquent/undisciplined youth? The Juvenile Justice section's philosophy is that the most successful way to approach risk and problem behaviors in youth is through the use of evidence-based and effective prevention, treatment, education and accountability-based sanctions in graduated levels guided by professional, strategic leadership through a tapestry of local and state partnerships. This approach, called the Comprehensive Strategy, requires effectual partnerships in local jurisdictions and values close relationships with families, local resources, law enforcement and the courts to achieve the most effective levels of impact before seeking “state resources” through institutionalizing youth in detention or youth development centers.

How does the juvenile justice process work? When a youth is suspected of committing a crime, a citizen or member of law enforcement can file a complaint against them. At this time, a youth goes through an intake process with a juvenile court counselor, where complaints and evidence are evaluated. Court counselors then determine whether the complaint is serious enough to warrant court action, or obtain assistance from community resources when court referral is not necessary. Within 2-4 weeks, the court counselor must decide whether or not to approve the complaint for court action. Serious felonies such as murder, rape and burglary must be approved for court. If it is found that there is no need for court action or referral to a community resource, the juvenile's case may be closed. If the court counselor believes the youth may benefit from a community resource, a diversion plan or contract may be created with the youth and his or her parents. Court counselors also work with undisciplined juveniles who are placed under protective supervision and with delinquent juveniles who are placed under court supervision. In each case, a juvenile's need for treatment and service is identified and local resources are mobilized.

The primary units of the Juvenile Justice section include: Community ProgramsCourt ServicesFacility Operations, Education Services and  Clinical Services and Programs.

Online application process for programs to apply for JCPC funds