Dec. 1, 2019 introduced a new era of juvenile justice in the state of North Carolina. The legislation signed by Gov. Roy Cooper in mid-2017 is now effective, bringing the 16- and 17-year-old population into our system of therapeutic, evidence-based care. Deputy Secretary William Lassiter and others celebrated the momentous occasion with Gov. Cooper at a special Raise the Age ceremony and proclamation signing on July 28, 2017.
The renovated Lenoir Complex at Dobbs Youth Development Center was reopened in Kinston in May 2017 as Lenoir Youth Development Center, increasing capacity by 12 beds to 44. Concurrent with the opening of Lenoir YDC was the closure of Dobbs YDC in Kinston, which opened in 1947.
The N.C. General Assembly in June 2017 raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction for nonviolent crimes to age 18, following years of research, study and education on the topic. Effective Dec. 1, 2019, 16 and 17 year old individuals who commit crimes in North Carolina will no longer automatically be charged in the adult criminal justice system.
In 2018, North Carolina’s juvenile crime rate fell to its lowest point since the state began recording juvenile crime data – 16.18 complaints per every 1,000 kids. From 2010-2018, the juvenile crime rate saw a 41% decrease; detention center admissions fell by 62%; and youth development center admissions dropped by 46%.
The 2014 session of the N.C. General Assembly authorized DPS to use approximately $1.7 million in Repair and Renovation funding originally earmarked for a kitchen renovation at Dobbs Youth Development Center to instead fund the implementation of the 2014 Juvenile Justice Facilities Strategic Plan. The goals of this plan includes:
- Phasing out outdated/unsafe/underutilized facilities;
- Renovating/expanding facilities that are safer, more secure and more cost-efficient;
- Enhancing support operations, such as transportation;
- Continue to provide treatment & education rooted in cognitive-behavioral approach to target criminogenic factors
- Reinvesting cost savings into community-based programming;
- Planning and preparing for potential future changes to the juvenile justice system.
In August 2015, the Gaston Juvenile Detention Center moved to the renovated Kirk building on the Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center campus in Concord, adding six beds and receiving a new name: Cabarrus Juvenile Detention Center.
In November 2015, the Insight Crisis and Assessment Center opened in the renovated Housing Unit D on the C.A. Dillon YDC Campus, providing crisis beds to Central and Eastern areas.
In April 2016, the renovated Edgecombe Youth Development Center was opened in Rocky Mount, increasing capacity by 12 beds to 44. Concurrent with the opening of Edgecombe YDC was the closure of C.A. Dillon YDC in Butner, which opened in 1968. Also in April, the Bridges Crisis and Assessment Center opened in the former Forsyth Juvenile Detention Center, providing crisis beds to the Piedmont area.
In September 2016, the Western Area Multipurpose Juvenile Crisis and Assessment Center opened in Asheville, in the renovated former Buncombe Juvenile Detention Center. This nine-bed center, operated through a public-private partnership with the Methodist Home for Children, provides crisis intervention, assessment and service planning for adjudicated youth who require a temporary out-of-home placement to stabilize their behaviors. The Asheville Center, unlike the other crisis centers, has the capacity to offer secure custody to children in the western area.
During the 2000 General Assembly, a cabinet-level Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (DJJDP) – formed by elevating the Office of Juvenile Justice; consolidating juvenile crime prevention and intervention programs; and coordinating state and local services.
DJJDP shifted its treatment methods from correctional to therapeutic, to better prepare juvenile offenders to re-enter their communities as productive members of society. In early 2004, the State Advisory Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention supported DJJDP's efforts to build a comprehensive strategy, based on strengthening families; supporting core social institutions; promoting delinquency prevention; intervening immediately and effectively when delinquent behavior occurs; and identifying and controlling the small group of serious, violent and chronic juvenile offenders.
In November 2004 DJJDP presented a detailed plan to the Joint Legislative Corrections, Crime Control, and Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee that laid out a desire for smaller facilities located closer to the communities in which youth live.
The 2005 General Assembly's budget included a special provision authorizing Phase 1 of DJJDP's plan for replacement facilities. By year's end, site work had begun for the replacement facilities, and the department had developed and begun implementation of a new Model of Care – focused on skill development and behavior change – for juvenile offenders in youth development centers.
The four replacement youth development centers – Chatham YDC; Lenoir Complex at Dobbs YDC; Edgecombe YDC; and the Cabarrus Complex at Stonewall Jackson YDC – opened in 2008.
In March 2011, budget cuts resulted in the closure of Swannanoa Valley YDC. A second YDC – Samarkand – was closed that year by the 2011 General Assembly, which encouraged DJJDP to increase the use of community-based alternatives to commitment to reduce the need for YDCs across the state.
DJJDP was one of three agencies in January 2012 that merged to become the Department of Public Safety. DJJDP became the Division of Juvenile Justice. In September 2013, as part of its continuing consolidation efforts, the Department of Public Safety integrated the divisions of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice and established the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice. In May 2014, the Juvenile Justice Section of the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice was created, composed of Juvenile Court Services; Juvenile Facility Services; Treatment & Education; and Juvenile Community Programs, all reporting to a Deputy Commissioner for Juvenile Justice.
In November 2012, to better utilize and manage tight resources, and in answer to declining detention numbers, Perquimans Juvenile Detention Center, located in Hertford, was closed. As enacted during 2012 session of General Assembly, Edgecombe YDC – one of the four new facilities opened in 2008 – was closed in January 2013. More closures came per order of the 2013 General Assembly: Buncombe Juvenile Detention and Richmond Juvenile Detention in July 2013, and the Lenoir Complex at Dobbs YDC – another of the four new facilities opened in 2008 – in October 2013.
1960s-70s. In 1971, the name changed to the Department of Youth Development. The 1975 General Assembly targeted the growing problems of delinquency with legislation prohibiting the training school commitment of status offenders. Community-based alternatives to training school were implemented in 1978 with a $1 million appropriation.
1980s. The revised Juvenile Code became effective in 1980, setting that the maximum term in training school could be no longer than an adult would serve for same offense, and establishing a uniform statewide treatment program. In 1984, all North Carolina children being held for a criminal offense were removed from adult jails and holding facilities.
1990s. The Juvenile Justice Reform Act passed in 1998 by the N.C. General Assembly, which created more effective prevention for children; stronger efforts to get troubled youth back on track; tougher, more effective punishment; and a more effective juvenile justice system. In 1999, the Office of Juvenile Justice was created by combining the Division of Youth Services from Department of Health and Human Services and the Juvenile Services Division from the Administrative Office of the Courts. Additionally, to boost local community prevention efforts, Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils (JCPCs) were instituted in each county.