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Ask Anything: 10 questions with Sec. Linda Hayes, N.C. Dept. of Juvenile Justice

Sec. Linda Hayes, with the N.C. Dept. of Juvenile Justice, answers your questions about teens' permanent records, probation officers and more.

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Secretary Linda Wheeler Hayes, N.C. Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
What was the legal rational for setting the maximum age for a juvenile offender at 16 when almost everything else in society states an adult to be 18? Shouldn't the max age be 17? – Todd, Raleigh

There was no clear legal reason stated for why the juvenile age was established at 16. What we do know is that juveniles were first treated differently than adults due to the efforts of reformers at the turn of the century who believed that treating child offenders was more important than punishing them. Rehabilitation, they thought, benefited both the child and society. Reforms such as this set the framework for North Carolina's current system, one dedicated to the best interest of children and to the protection of the community.

A review of the history shows us that under the Probation Courts Act of March 1915, juvenile jurisdiction was originally established at age 18 or younger, but the age was later lowered by the Juvenile Justice Statute of 1919 to any child under the age of 16. Why this was done is not exactly clear, but one could speculate it had more to do with a policy decision than a legal rational.

North Carolina is the only state in the country that treats all sixteen and seventeen year olds as adults when charged with criminal offenses and then denies them the ability to appeal to return to juvenile court. The legislature is currently considering legislation to change the age jurisdiction of the juvenile court in North Carolina to youth under the age of 18.

If an individual is charged with possession at age 16, and is charged as an adult, is the record sealed at 18? Is it on the permanent adult record? – Smith, Holly Springs

As stated in the answer to the last question juvenile jurisdiction in NC ends at age 16, so if a 16 year old is charged with a crime they will be sent to adult court, and yes this would be part of their permanent record. I would add that in certain cases a person can request that the court expunge (wipe clean) their record. This does not apply to every crime and is decided by a judge on a case by case basis.

Do you see a resolution for juvenile offenders who get out of jail and lose contact with probation officers because P.O.'s are already swamped with others and their paperwork? – Tim Payne, Raleigh

Our Juvenile Court Counselors work very hard to supervise young people on their caseloads as closely as their needs and community safety requires. You may be thinking of some of the challenges that adult probation has to deal with. Juvenile Court Counselors have an advantage of smaller caseloads. A large resource for juvenile court counselors is the number of other community professionals that work with us in helping these young people and their families Our court counselors are regularly in contact with schools and parents about young people on their caseloads. There are effective youth serving agencies in our communities, many of which are funded by the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, that provide individual and family counseling, mentoring, and a host of other services. Staff members of these agencies are in frequent contact with the young person and the court counselors. Can a young person avoid the Court Counselor? Yes, but not easily.

How do we even out the juvenile crime facilities so there are just as many white kids as children of color being detained in them? – Frank T. Washington, Durham

The issue that you bring up, also known as disproportionate minority contact (DMC), is something that this Department takes very seriously and is actively addressing. Although the key mission of the Department is to promote public safety the second component of our mission statement is to prevent juvenile delinquency. Unfortunately, the reality is that youth of color are overrepresented at critical decisions points throughout the juvenile justice system including our detention centers and youth development centers when compared to white youth. The reasons for the existence of racial disparities are varied and complex.

Some of the Department’s efforts to reduce DMC include the collection of data on an annual basis to identify where racial disparities exist within the system. This information is then shared with Department staff and with the general public so that people can be knowledgeable about the factors associated with juvenile delinquency and DMC. In addition, a major initiative promoted by the Department is the statewide training on the Race Matters Toolkit developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This Toolkit is designed to assist organizations in examining its policies, practices and programming through an intentional focus on racial disparities. Training is currently being provided to court services staff, law enforcement, schools and other entities interested in reducing racial disparities. Through the described effort the Department will continue to use best practices to create equitable outcomes.

Are there any promising and innovative programs available for juvenile delinquent females in N.C.? – Suzanne Brown, White Cross
Though the juvenile justice system was developed primarily to serve males, for the past decade we have had great success with gender-specific programming for girls. These programs take many forms; however, most all target building a positive self-image, teen pregnancy prevention, conflict resolution, anger management, respectful communication, team building, goal setting, healthy recreation, alcohol and drug awareness and character development. Check with your local court counseling office to see if one of these is active in your area. If not, express your interest in having one in your area. To learn more about the Department’s gender specific programming please review our Gender Specific Resource Manual which you can view by clicking here.
Linda, I had a kid break in my house several months ago and steal my car. How can I find out what happened to him? I feel like I should get a letter letting me know if he is in jail, probation or what!! Thanks. – Dennis Mitchell, Rocky Mount

This is an excellent question. When a young person commits a delinquent act that causes harm or loss to a victim the Court Counselor contacts the victim to verify the impact of the delinquency on the victim. If there is a financial loss, the victim is assisted in documenting that loss for possible restitution. The victim is also notified of the various hearings that take place so that they can be present to observe and testify, if necessary. If the victim is in court when the case is finished and the terms of the court are ordered, the victim would learn of those orders. In some jurisdictions the District Attorneys Office has a Victim Advocate whose job it is to keep the victims informed regarding the proceedings and outcomes.

Your question identifies a gap in our attention to victims. In cases in which the victim is not in court when the Judge orders the terms of probation or commits the youth to a Youth Development Center, unless there is a Victim Advocate in the district, the victim may not be notified of the outcome.

Why do juvenile probation officers allow juveniles to make SO many violations before violating them? For instance, the juvenile MUST have three or more violations before they are punished for their actions. – Melody Jackson, Godwin

Juvenile Court Counselors are guided by the juvenile law. It tells a Court Counselor what they can and cannot do. When the young person breaks the law, Court Counselors do not have to wait until there are three infractions before there are consequences. If the delinquent acts are not serious, the Court Counselor can make arrangements for the young person to perform community service, receive counseling, etc. without ever going to court. This is called a diversion. It does not mean the young person is not held accountable. If the young person does not complete the terms of the diversion contract, then he or she will be brought to court for a formal hearing and disposition. If the original complaint against the young person is serious, or if the circumstance otherwise indicate that the case needs to go to court, then hearings are held and if the young person is found to have committed the delinquent acts alleged, the judge imposes consequences ranging from probation with a number of performance requirements to being committed to a secure Youth Development Center. Sometimes, detention in a local secure detention center is used when the behavior warrants it and such a confinement meet the legal requirements.

Our goal is to hold the young person accountable for their actions. It is important that the consequences of their behavior be as swift as the process will allow, certain and appropriate to their behavior. All of this is guided by law. This is necessary to provide for the safety of the community. In addition to these goals, our Court Counselors work with the young person, their families, schools and many agencies to secure the help and guidance they need to be successful.

Juvenile justice programs have always been underfunded. What are you and your staff doing to help increase funding? Prevention and intervention is what juveniles and their families need right now. – Angel Corpening, Elm City

We are currently seeking funding for intervention/prevention programming through several federal grants. Two have already been awarded through recovery funds totaling $11 million for gang intervention/prevention, and we are hopeful about the funding of three (3) others that we have submitted for providing mentoring and anti-bullying initiatives.

In addition, we have encouraged local Juvenile Crime Prevention Council programs to invite their local leaders and state legislators to visit their programs to increase public awareness of the needs and services available to meet those needs and to educate decision-makers about the effectiveness of local programs.

Ten DJJDP consultants around the state offer technical assistance to counties as they apply for funding and also keep local communities abreast of any new funding opportunities to serve youth and families.

We are also looking at alternatives to detention and placement which generally are much more expensive than serving juveniles within their communities. In evaluating model programs (such as our demonstration projects), we are finding these alternatives to more costly programs to be effective and efficient ways of serving juveniles needing more intensive levels of intervention while being served locally.

What are the qualifications for working with juveniles? Do you have to a four-year degree? I would like to be a court counselor working with juveniles. – Beatrice Birdine, Goldsboro
The qualifications for a Juvenile Court Counselor position are as follows: Graduation from a four-year college or university with a degree in a human services field such as social work, psychology, counseling, or criminal justice and two years of experience in counseling or a human services field, preferably with the client population; or, a master’s degree in a human service field and one year of experience in counseling or a human services field; or, an equivalent combination of training and experience. There are other positions within the Department that do not require as much experience or education. To see a full listing of the Department’s openings please click here.
It seems as if today’s youth are becoming more and more disrespectful, and misbehaved. I feel that while games, TV, and other influences around them have A LOT to do with this, I'm also sure that it is because children of today have no fear. Because they know that teachers and parents can not get away with giving them good old fashion spankings. What options do parents on a limited budget have to get their children to shape up when they can’t control them, and want to save them BEFORE they end up in trouble with the legal system? – Odellia, Hurdle Mills

I believe that every generation of adults worries about the next generation’s values and morals and always believes that “those kids today” are far worse then they were when they were growing up. The reality is that juvenile crime is down nationally and in North Carolina. Our Department saw juvenile crime hit a nine year low last year. Nationally juvenile crime has been on a steady decline for the last two decades. This is not to say that there still are not problems, but I do believe that the things we are doing are working.

To answer the second part of your question I would tell you that the law does allow you to discipline your child. However, what the law does not allow is for you to abuse your child. My experience in the juvenile justice system has shown me that most of the kids involved in our system do not have a problem with not getting spanked enough; in fact most of them got spanked on a regular basis. What they did not get was love, attention and affection. Of the juveniles who went to court last year 34% were assessed to have parents that were either unwilling or unable to supervise their kids.

If communication is a challenge within the family, parents can participate with their children in family sessions giving them a non-threatening environment in which they can express their concerns to other family members (parent to teen and vice-versa) while developing helpful bonding techniques. [Ask for family counseling, RESOLVE, parent support groups, etc.]. If you are a parent struggling to raise your child, I would ask you to call our office or one of our court counseling offices to learn about resources that are available in your community to assist you.

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