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State Budget 2018: Juvenile Justice

Last year, the N.C. General Assembly passed the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act which raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction in North Carolina to include 16 and 17 year olds. With this came the creation of the Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee. Jon Guze, Director of Legal Studies at JLF, writes about funding for the JJRA, or lack there of, in the 2018 State Budget bill.

The committee is made up of 21 members and their job is to:

Develop a specific plan for the implementation of any changes in the juvenile justice system that would be required in order to extend jurisdiction in delinquency matters and proceedings to include 16? and 17?year?old persons within the juvenile justice system. The plan shall include cost estimates for each portion of the plan, including capital costs, operating costs, and staffing costs.

The committee submitted a report with funding recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year. Recommendations include $14 million for the Department of Public Safety ($7.2 million of this for the completion of a juvenile detention facility in Rockingham Co. and $1.9 million for juvenile court counselors), and money for additional staff at the Office of the Juvenile Defender and the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Having gone to such trouble to assemble a committee of experts and obtain their funding recommendations, one might have expected the General Assembly to follow those recommendations, but that’s not what’s happened. The recently announced N.C. House and Senate budget agreement provides funding for what are, arguably, the most important elements of implementation, i.e., the new juvenile detention facility in Rockingham County and the additional juvenile court counselors. Unfortunately, however, it does not fund any of the JJAC’s other recommendations.

Compared to many of the benefits that are supposed to flow from the expenditure of public funds, the benefits that will flow from successful implantation of the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act will be real and tangible, and they will be enjoyed by everyone who lives in North Carolina. When it comes to spending public money, securing such benefits ought to be a priority.

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