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Structuring Individualized Delinquency Dispositions

The Juvenile Code requires the court to select the most appropriate disposition for the delinquent juvenile. G.S. 7B-2501(c). Under this statute, the disposition must be designed to protect the public and to meet the needs and best interests of the juvenile based on offense severity, the need for accountability, the importance of protecting public safety, the juvenile’s degree of culpability, and the rehabilitative and treatment needs of the juvenile. There are many different statutory pathways available to the court to structure individualized dispositions targeted to meet the needs of the juvenile and reduce their risk of reoffending. This post explores some of those options, with an emphasis on alternatives outside of standard terms and conditions for probation or placement in out-of-home settings.

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New Resource on Juvenile Transfer Procedure

A new Juvenile Law Bulletin, Transfer of Juvenile Delinquency Cases to Superior Court, is now available. Transfer is the procedure used to move a case that begins as a delinquency matter under the original jurisdiction of the juvenile court to criminal court for trial as an adult. The Bulletin outlines when transfer is allowed, and sometimes required; the varying procedures to use to transfer a case based on age at offense and the offense charged; procedure to follow once transfer is ordered; the remand process; place of confinement; and issues related to the appeal process. This blog provides some highlights of the information in the Bulletin.

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Legislative Changes to Required Mental Health Assessments Before Entering a Delinquency Disposition: New Provisions of G.S. 7B-2502

This is the third in a series of blogs about the changes contained in Session Law 2021-123. It summarizes the new requirement for court ordered mental health assessments, including a new care review team process.  (see Raise the Age Legislative Changes  and From 6 to 10: New Minimum Age for Juvenile Delinquency and Undisciplined Jurisdiction for previous blogs about the other provisions in S.L. 2021-123).

A steady stream of appellate caselaw,  beginning with  In re E.M., 263 N.C.App. 476 (2019), established that  G.S.7B-2502(c) requires the trial court to refer a juvenile who is adjudicated delinquent to the local management entity (LME) prior to ordering a disposition when there is any amount of evidence that the juvenile has a mental illness. The purpose of the referral is for the LME to conduct an interdisciplinary evaluation and mobilize resources. Beginning with petitions filed on December 1, 2021, this statutory mandate is changing. The court will be required to order mental health assessments under different circumstances and, in some cases, to order a care review team after the assessment is completed.

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Raise the Age and Enforcement of Domestic Violence Protective Orders and Civil No-Contact Orders

The Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act and its subsequent corresponding legislation raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18 for most offenses committed at ages 16 or 17 that would otherwise be crimes. S.L. 2017-57, §§ 16.D.4.(a)-16.D.4.(tt) and S.L. 2019-186. Last summer, the legislature enacted changes to the criminal law to ensure that minors who fall outside of raise the age and continue to be tried as adults are not housed in adult jails. S.L. 2020-83, §§ 8.(a)-8.(p).  While it may feel like these changes must mean that the age of 18 is now consistently the legal demarcation for being treated as an adult, the law continues to use the age of 16 as a defining line in some instances. For example, Chapter 50B (Domestic Violence) and Chapter 50C (Civil No-Contact Orders) continue to provide that domestic violence protective orders (DVPOs) and Civil No-Contact Orders can be obtained against youth once they reach the age of 16. This blog addresses how enforcement of these orders against youth who are ages 16 and 17 is affected by raise the age and by the removal of minors from jails.

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In Search of Youth Voice: Were You or Someone You Know Involved with Juvenile Court in N.C.?

Much of our work at the School of Government is focused on creating educational materials for professionals who work in North Carolina’s juvenile court—especially judges and attorneys. We want to share the voices of those who are affected the most – the juveniles. Professor Sara DePasquale and I are starting a video project to give voice to the experience of juveniles who have been involved in the juvenile justice and/or child welfare systems. This post provides some information on what we hope to do and how to contact us if you or someone you know is interested in participating.

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Satisfying Conditions of Pretrial Release When in Juvenile Detention

Two changes in the law have led to a new phenomenon—the need for youth under the age of 18 to satisfy conditions of pretrial release while being confined in a juvenile detention facility. First, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (JJRA) raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction for offenses committed at ages 16 and 17 on or after December 1, 2019. The JJRA includes a broad mandatory transfer provision, requiring that many felony matters shift from juvenile to superior court jurisdiction. G.S. 7B-2200.5(a). When that happens, the rules of criminal procedure (including those governing pretrial release) apply rather than the rules for juvenile cases. Second, Part II of Session Law 2020-83 required that the few minors who continue to be processed as adults in the criminal system from the outset of their cases be held in juvenile detention instead of adult jails. The release of minors subject to criminal rather than juvenile jurisdiction is governed by the usual criminal process for setting and satisfying conditions for pretrial release. Those conditions sometimes require posting a bond. But juvenile detention facilities are not equipped to process bonds. So how does this work? This post will review the circumstances in which a youth confined in juvenile detention may need to post bond, the impediments to doing so, and potential ways to address those problems.

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Race and Ethnicity in Juvenile Justice: North Carolina’s Numbers

With the work of the Governor’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice under way, it is timely to consider the issue of racial equity in the juvenile justice system. Issues of racial and ethnic disproportionality and disparity in juvenile justice have been discussed and studied in juvenile justice systems across the country for decades, as federal juvenile justice funding for states has long been tied to their study. See the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Racial and Ethnic Disparities page for more information on the federal requirement.

North Carolina’s most recent study, Disproportionate Minority Contact in North Carolina: An Assessment Study (hereinafter “Assessment Study”), funded by the Governor’s Crime Commission and authored by Stan Orchowsky, Ph.D. of Cambiare Consulting and Michael Leiber, Ph.D., and Chae Jaynes, Ph.D., of the University of South Florida, was released in June of 2019. The findings reveal that, while there is significant local variation across counties in North Carolina, youth of color are represented throughout the juvenile justice system in far greater numbers than they are represented in the general population. These disparities are most profound at the very front door of the juvenile justice system and at the deepest end of the system in secure confinement. They are also most profound for Black youth.

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Juvenile Justice Pandemic Lessons

The Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee (JJAC) met on May 15th. The meeting began with a presentation from William Lassiter, Deputy Secretary for Juvenile Justice. While the goal of the presentation was to provide data on trends since implementation of raise the age and the resulting resource needs, the presentation included information and data about juvenile justice system trends during this unprecedented pandemic. The data left me wondering—can changes in juvenile justice system utilization during the pandemic teach us lessons for the functioning of the system outside of a pandemic?

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Juvenile Justice Changes in Federal Law

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDPA) is the central federal law that establishes core requirements for state juvenile justice systems. 34 USC §111. In return for compliance with these core requirements, the statute authorizes federal funding for states to use in their juvenile justice systems. The JJDPA expired in 2007 and was recently reauthorized in the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018. Public Law No 115-385. The reauthorized statute made several significant amendments to the JJDPA. In this blog post I will discuss three of the highlights: a new focus on evidence-based and promising programs and practices, changes in the disproportionate minority contact core requirement, and new requirements regarding identification and treatment of mental health and substance use disorders.

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“Raise the Age” Is Now the Law in North Carolina

North Carolina is no longer the only state in the U.S. that automatically prosecutes juveniles as adults beginning at age 16. In June, the General Assembly ended a century long practice of prosecuting teens as adults by enacting the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act as part of the 2017 state budget, which raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18. As a result, most 16 and 17-year-olds will be prosecuted in juvenile court beginning December 1, 2019. There are, however, some exceptions. Here’s what you should know about this historic reform.

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