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NC juvenile justice officials warn of 'devastating' budget cuts

Posted May 30, 2011
Updated May 31, 2011

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— As North Carolina lawmakers continue to figure out how to deal with a $2.5 billion state budget shortfall, leaders in the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention say they are facing serious cuts that could prove devastating to the state's criminal justice system.

The House spending plan would cut $15.4 million and eliminate 275 jobs from the department, while the proposed Senate version cuts $15.6 million and 278 jobs. The governor's budget, meanwhile, cuts just over $10 million from the system along with 59 jobs.

The Senate will discuss the budget during a session set to begin at noon Tuesday. Watch it LIVE on WRAL.com. 

In addition to potentially hundreds of job losses, juvenile justice Secretary Linda Hayes says that means fewer beds, facility closures and cuts to education and prevention programs that will be dangerous for young offenders and the community.

"We're going to have to say to judges, 'Judges, we can't commit any more kids,'" she said. "These kids are kids at the end of the line. They need support and resources. They need to learn how to read. This is setting us up for the criminal justice system to have total disaster."

Senate budget writer Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, says he is confident that lawmakers will propose smart cuts to the juvenile justice system.

"The (young people) that need to be there will be there. The ones that are there will be treated properly," he said. "We'll take care of our young people, no matter what."

But some who work in the juvenile court system on a daily basis have their doubts and are worried about the potential effects of what they see as being drastic budget cuts.

Potential cuts to juvenile justice cause worry Potential cuts to juvenile justice cause worry

"That's not possible," said Chief District Judge Marcia Morey, who presides in Durham County. "I invite any lawmaker to come in, sit and watch a court session."

According to a department annual report, the juvenile court system received more than 37,500 complaints statewide in 2010. Of those, 9,000 were violent and serious in nature.

"The types of cases we hear in juvenile court include murder, armed robbery, carjacking, felony assaults, minors in possession of handguns and shotguns, burglary and sex offenses," Morey said. "This is not kiddie court."

Provisions in both the House and Senate budgets would eliminate 39 court counselors and eight chief counselors across the state – workers assigned to monitor juvenile offenders and advocate for services in the community.

By eliminating the positions, the state would save nearly $2 million each fiscal year for the next two years.

"I just don't know how we can operate efficiently or effectively. My fear is that juvenile crime will go up and that these kids will not be supervised," Morey said.

"It's vital to keep close supervision, monitor these kids and get the resources, because they're all coming back in the community," she added.

Hunt said he understands the concerns but that cuts have to be made.

"I've probably got 5,000 to 10,000 petitions to not cut a particular program. I've yet to get one saying we'll help by taking a little cut," he said. "It's just human nature to want to protect your turf."

"I'm not saying the need is not there. In many cases it is," he added. "Ultimately, there are cuts that have to be made."

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  • oleguy May 31, 2011

    Do away with the program all together,86 % is not a good record

  • oleguy May 31, 2011

    If you have ever been to Court to watch a session, it the biggest CIRCUS show on earth,,, Wasted time, over kill, and then most issues are solved in the back room....
    Courts are the most inefficient dog and poney show on earth

  • North Carolina Home May 31, 2011

    "I just don't know how we can operate efficiently or effectively. My fear is that juvenile crime will go up and that these kids will not be supervised," Morey said.

    Isn't that the status quo now?

  • mustangyts May 31, 2011

    They might as well cut all funding for delinquent juveniles. They do nothing with them when they are found guilty of committing crimes. Just another avenue for attorneys to get their hands on our tax dollars. Court appointed attorneys turn in crazy amounts of hours per case and are paid with OUR money. The whole system is not designed to deter crime, its designed to make money for attorneys.

  • Z Man May 31, 2011

    I'm starting to wonder how far will the socialists go. If they take 50% of the working mans salary is that enough? Maybe it would be fore a while until the administrative bloat expands to fit the money available. So the socialists will then demand 65% of the working mans paycheck. Soon that will be insufficient.

    I really don't know why I've worked for 28 years so far and why I continue to do so. It's like I'm working for the government half the time and myself the other half. Why would anyone in their right mind do that? Just why should I work when I can sponge off others?

    You're right, we are trying to destroy ourselves... We are going to chase out everyone of value because of what it's beginning to cost to live here.

  • djcgriffin May 31, 2011

    simmonstony - exactly!

  • Bring on the 4 Dollar Gas May 31, 2011

    Didn't they hear? The on again, off again teacher's assitant positions are back on again. Someone has to be cut and the future criminals of the area are next on the list.

  • ICTrue May 31, 2011

    "You have to break the cycle somewhere...Kids are getting to the 7th and 8th grade unable to read because no one has the resources to teach them;teachers are spending all of their time managing 40 kids in a room that was built for 20."

    Again with the myth that there is a shortage of teachers. All of the teachers in the world aren't going to make up for a lack of parenting.

  • fireman1234 May 31, 2011

    That's it, put more criminals back on the streets to commit more crimes. Makes sense to me there lawmakers. Then when they become felons, we can let them teach in our schools like Senator Burger wanted.

  • Familymatters May 31, 2011

    Bad kids can't turn into good parents. You have to break the cycle somewhere...Kids are getting to the 7th and 8th grade unable to read because no one has the resources to teach them;teachers are spending all of their time managing 40 kids in a room that was built for 20.
    But just you wait, 5 years from now the same legislators will be screaming for more money to fight the "crime wave" while for profit prisons are bursting at the seams and their corporate owners are laughing all the way to the bank.

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