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Kids forced to sleep on floors due to overcrowding at NC juvenile detention facilities

Juvenile detention facilities in North Carolina are overcrowded and the Department of Juvenile Justice has the highest vacancy rate out of all NCDPS departments.
Posted 2023-09-20T20:38:38+00:00 - Updated 2023-09-20T21:48:16+00:00
NC juvenile facilities over capacity: Kids forced to sleep on floor

The 13 juvenile detention facilities across North Carolina are all over capacity.

The facilities can hold 320 kids, but they are housing more than 400 as of Wednesday,

“Eighty kids are having to sleep on dayroom floors,” said William Lassiter, who serves as the deputy secretary of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety Division of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The Wake Juvenile Detention Facility in Raleigh can hold 24 kids.

Lassiter said Juvenile Justice has the greatest need for staff of any agency within the DPS.

As of Wednesday, here is a look at the percentage of jobs unfilled among the DPS:

  • Alcohol law enforcement: 7%
  • State Bureau of Investigation: 10%
  • State Highway Patrol: 11%
  • Emergency management: 13%
  • Chief operating office: 18%
  • Office of the Secretary: 27%
  • State Capitol Police: 30%
  • Chief of Staff: 34%
  • National Guard: 35%
  • Juvenile Justice: 37%

WRAL News asked Lassiter if he’s seen a vacancy rate like this before.

“Never, never, never in my career,” Lassiter said. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years.”

“We are seeing startling vacancy rates in Juvenile Justice System, 37% overall, almost 50% in our facilities,” Lassiter said.

Not only is the state lacking in jailers to keep the facilities secure, but one the most startling vacancy rates within the system, according to Lassiter, is that of the youth behavioral counselors. The counselors help these kids stay out of the system, Lassiter said.

“These are the staff that are employed that help kids that have made a mistake turn their life around,” he said.

Lassiter didn't shy away from why it’s so hard to hire.

“I think its pay simply put,” he said. “People in Juvenile Justice are starting at $35,000 [per year].”

With crimes committed by those under age 18 up 21% last year, and violent crimes up 24%, Lassiter is concerned this problem will continue if they cannot find ways to attract the help they need.

“You look at the numbers and say, ‘Why is juvenile crime going up?’” Lassiter said. “I think it’s because we don’t have the people on the frontlines to stop it right now.”

Lassiter says they are in the process of building three new detention centers that can hold 100 kids, but the problem is right now they have no one to run them or staff them.