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Cuts to NC juvenile justice budget pose 'public safety issues'

Posted May 23, 2011
Updated May 24, 2011

— The North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention says the state House’s proposed $19.3 billion budget bill could put some serious young criminal offenders back on the streets.

Under the 2012 fiscal year figures, the department is facing $15.5 million in spending cuts, a 10 percent decrease from its current $151 million budget, and an elimination of about 275 positions, a 15 percent work force reduction.

Among the cuts is an expected decrease of 75 the number of beds at the state’s seven Youth Development Centers, which serve as long-term facilities for young people under age 16 who are convicted of serious crimes.

At a minimum, offenders are ordered to serve six months at a center, but the amount of time they actually stay is based on the specific needs of the individual. The centers provide mentoring, education, and individualized treatment plans so that offenders can have a new start in life upon their release.

As of March, there were 393 young offenders in the development centers, according to the juvenile justice department.

The North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission released a report in February, recommending 404 beds for the 2012 fiscal year.

Gov. Bev Perdue's spending priorities cut that number to 387, while Republican House lawmakers cut it to 329.

Department Deputy Secretary Kathy Dudley says that the department has determined that an additional $2.6 million would mitigate any damage caused by the cuts. That would give the department the ability to accommodate Perdue’s budget numbers. Any deeper cuts, she says, would be alarming.

NC Department of Juvenile Justice sign Cuts to NC juvenile justice budget pose 'public safety issues'

"We're very concerned. The youth who are in our custody are committed by the court for serious and violent offenses,” Dudley said. “All of these young people will eventually transition back to the community."

Cutting beds would mean that the average stay of about a year would be shortened to accommodate more young offenders.

"This is definitely a public safety issue. The young people that we need to serve in these facilities are young people that have posed threats to the community,” she said. “We want to be sure that transition happens at a time when they're ready to be out in society and not a threat to all concerned.”

Some former offenders, like Micheal Cox, who served in development centers, say they are also concerned by the cuts.

"I don't think I would be where I'm at today, if I were let out early,” Cox said. “Those programs help save lives. If it wasn't for those youth development centers, I could have been killed, I could have gotten involved in more serious crimes. I think if had been released earlier, I could have had more extensive trouble.”

Now 27, Cox says that trouble came easy to him as a child. At age 12, he was convicted of larceny for stealing cars, and he spent eight months in a development facility. He was back again, at age 15, for selling drugs in school.

"At one point in my life, I really thought that I was going to be in and out of the system for the rest of my life,” he said.

Cox says the programs that the youth development centers offer work.

Based on what he learned there, he went on to graduate high school and attend college at North Carolina Central University, and he recently received his graduate degree in social work from North Carolina State University.

“At one point, I really didn't think I'd be graduating from school or even have a chance to go to school,” Cox said. “I really looked at my life as a young man going through the juvenile justice system, going through those programs and realizing those programs helped me get a long way.”

Now, he’s hoping to be able to help young people facing similar experiences and situations as he did.

"I don't have a preference as long as I'm helping kids,” Cox said. “I want to give back now. I was in the system on the wrong side. Now, I have an opportunity to do more for kids on a larger scale … I just want to give back."

Success stories like Cox’s are the pay-off to money invested in juvenile justice, Dudley says.

“The big picture (is) we're working to save the state a large amount of money to keep these young people out of the adult prison system for life,” she said. “If we're not turning their direction at this age, they will remain in the criminal justice system, and as taxpayers, we will be supporting them.”

24 Comments

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  • whatusay May 24, 2011

    Not so... don't believe it. Government money is not the answer to any of our problems, it only makes people more dependent on government.

  • artist May 24, 2011

    This is what you get when you are soft and supporting of crime.

    Is anyone really serious about letting criminals out on the street because you do not want to incur the cost of safety for law abiding citizens?

    You throw serious criminals in the slammer. Period. And they do every second of their time. Period.

    But... but...

    No Buts!

    We have plenty of $$$ to build more prisons! Build as many as are needed!

    Oh... but you have to stop throwing away the cash on entitlements and freebies!!

    And if people are going to scare you weasels by threatening to commit more crimes if you don't continue to give them freebies?

    You use that money to build more prisons instead!

    Seriously folks... you have very little time to change your ways, and the direction of this country... or you are doomed.

    Actually, you are already doomed... I just thought it was funny to throw out a little false hope.

  • Rebelyell55 May 24, 2011

    Not enough information. Should be some type of record that shows how many go back to crime. Type of crime and how many repeat offenders. If cuts are needed look at the administration. I bet it is over loaded like most of the state agencies. Last, put them on the farm and make them work. Help pay for some of their expenses.

  • cwood3 May 24, 2011

    This is an important issue to all of us. We need this program to be sucessful. At the same time, we cannot continue to throw money at it like putting water on a fire. Money does not grow on trees-nor come froma lake or well. For years, the Democrats in Raleigh have thrown money on money on money to solve issues without examining the outcomes. They've done the same thing with Education.

    The whole program needs some examination. Do we have an Auditor's Report on this agency? I assume the State Auditor is similar to an Inspector General-who looks at a program to see if the money budgeted is being spent wisely.

    Problem is-now's time for the budget to be passed-not evaluated further for effiecencies.

    I am as conservative as they come. Yet, I'm not sure this is time to cut taxes. I would leave them alone for now and re-examine next year.

  • onebaker1 May 24, 2011

    On top of this there is a move in NC to take 16 and 17 year old offenders out of the adult system and put them in the juvenile system in order to put NC in line with 48 other states who already do that. That would mean the state would have to ADD a significant number of beds for juvenile offenders to accommodate the influx of the 16-17 year old former adult offenders. Cutting the number of beds just doesn't "cut it" in that scenario.

  • alx May 24, 2011

    if parents would take responsibility for their kids.. then the budget for this agency could be cut. unfortunately we have a lot of lazy people who get their house, phone, food, education, and health care from the government and expect the government to raise their kids as well. time for the moocher class to get off the couch and get a job

  • mky777 May 24, 2011

    this whole juvenile system is a scam!! It does not work, nor will it if we continue down this path. Most cases the parents are non existent, either in physical or mental sense. Juveniles are a serious pain to deal with on the street and most don't. For many, their time in the hold is a status symbol and ups their street credit. The usual age for serious criminal activity is lower (about 9 yrs old or lower) and we as a society are about to up the juvenile age for charging. Its not like the era many of us grew up in anymore. Most only care about this when they see it in the news. Everyday, most don't care. It is extremely sad, but responsibility has to come from all of us, because most of the parents won't, and can't be made to. When they get out of their confinement, who cares and what do they really have to go back to?

  • kjackson47 May 24, 2011

    Blacksuv1962
    Really not all of these kids parents are bad and can't always control what their kids do.

  • blacksuv1962 May 24, 2011

    The state should stop paying for these little gangster wanna be's and hold there parents responsible.Or let them share a cell together.

  • thepeopleschamp May 24, 2011

    Some of you are doing the math just based on beds. There are 1000's of juveniles that are handled, not just 300+. And it's silly to say "send them to the front line". That sounds really tough but is not a real option. Those who are on the front line don't want or need a 15 year old that can't even stay in school much less be a real soldier. And to make all matters worse, NC is considering changing the Juvenile age to 18, you think we have problems now.

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