Blog: DPS Dispatch

Research has identified seven critical domains where children returning to their communities following involvement in the juvenile justice system face challenges and opportunities when it comes to the likelihood of continued or future involvement in the criminal justice system. A North Carolina program funded in part through a federal second chance grant is helping Juvenile Justice address barriers found in with one especially challenging domain – successful school placement of these young people upon return to their communities.

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The North Carolina Juvenile Justice Section is continually increasing and improving opportunities available for juveniles to return to their communities following commitment in youth development centers. The importance of proper reentry was heightened over the past 17 months when the age of youth potentially housed in juvenile hustice facilities was raised to 18. This change meant older teenagers and young adults involved in non-violent offenses could receive more focused and age-appropriate rehabilitation and reentry services.

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Tangi Jordan doesn’t know why she stopped her car in the rain and cold Feb. 18 morning on her way to work at the Lenoir Youth Development Center in Kinston. She just saw someone who needed help. The facility director noticed several cars pulled off on the side of the road near State Highway 11 as she drove from her home in Winterville toward Greenville and Kinston. Jordan initially thought an accident had occurred but then she saw a large elderly man lying on the ground and a group of women near him. 

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The World Health Organization designated 2020 as the “International Year of the Nurse” in honor of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. If there is a group of nurses that represent the courage and care needed to deal with the pandemic this year, it definitely includes the nurses who work for the state’s Juvenile Justice section.  

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After years of planning, North Carolina implemented the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (S.L. 2017-57) on Dec. 1, 2019. More commonly known as “Raise the Age,” the law redirects 16 and 17-year-olds who committed misdemeanors and low-level felonies from automatically being charged in the adult criminal justice system. North Carolina was one of the last states to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction for most offenses to 18. By including 16 and 17-yearolds under juvenile jurisdiction, the state endorsed a practice that is not only effective in reducing crime but also is cost-effective. 

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Partnerships between agencies are important in state government. Problems at one agency may be easily solved by another if there was a way to bring everyone together. The Office of Strategic Partnerships, through the Office of State Budget and Management, works to increase and enhance partnerships between state government and North Carolina's research universities and philanthropic sector.

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A major change has arrived in the Juvenile Justice section, for the second time in just nine months. Last December, North Carolina’s juvenile justice system began implementing “Raise the Age,” providing most youth aged 16 and 17 who commit crimes with access to services through Juvenile Justice, rather than adult court. Some offenses, however, must by statute be heard from beginning to end in the criminal court (adult) system.

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Raise the Age – which increased the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include 16 and 17-year-old children – is bringing an older population in need of services to the Juvenile Justice section of the N.C. Department of Public Safety. The section’s Juvenile Community Programs unit has answered this call for services recently with the opening of a new transitional home in Winston-Salem.

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Findings published last month following a year-long independent study evaluating the food environments of North Carolina’s juvenile justice facilities indicate that staff are invested in the children in their care, meet child nutrition program requirements for all daily meals and feel that their role in promoting child health and wellness is important. 

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