A new bipartisan law gives greater latitude to the Division of Juvenile Justice when it releases information pertaining to juvenile offenders who have fled official custody.
Generally speaking, a “juvenile” is someone who is considered not old enough to be held entirely responsible for criminal acts — and so they are tried in juvenile, rather than adult, courts. In North Carolina, a juvenile is defined as a person 15 years old or younger.
[Editor’s note: North Carolina and New York are the only states which automatically treat 16 and 17 year olds as adults, regardless of the offense. House Bill 399, bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Representative McGrady which would allow 16 and 17 year-olds who commit misdemeanors to be prosecuted in juvenile courts rather than adult courts, has languished this session. Similar legislation (House Bill 725) passed the House last session but was stalled in the Senate. For more information on 2014’s so-called “Raise the age Bill,” click here].
Juveniles can be detained if they are suspected of committing a crime, are perceived as a threat to themselves or the community, or have run away from home. Should they manage to break away from authorities, the Division of Juvenile Justice is required to notify the public (within 24 hours) of the juvenile’s first name, last initial, photograph, and the last known location and circumstances surrounding the escape.
If the juvenile is on the lam from a secure facility (like a detention center or youth development center), the law also required the Division to provide a description of the threat posed by the juvenile to the community; House Bill 295 leaves the publication of this information up to the discretion of the Division, allowing the Deputy Commissioner of Juvenile Justice to make the determination on a case-by-case basis.
Juvenile detention centers temporarily house youths alleged to have committed a crime or who have run away from home. Youths are generally placed in a juvenile detention center while awaiting a court hearing or until another placement can be found, either in a community-based program or service or in a youth development center. North Carolina operates six juvenile detention centers across the state (in Taylorsville, Concord, Fayetteville, Castle Hayne, Greenville, and Raleigh) and supports three other county-operated facilities (in Durham, Forsyth, and Guilford Counties). For more information on North Carolina’s juvenile detention centers, click here.
Youth development centers are the most restrictive option available to the juvenile courts in North Carolina and are typically reserved for the most violent or troubled youthful offenders. In addition to their incarcerative function, youth development centers provide a full range of medical, psychological, therapeutical, and educational services (the Division operates its own school district with licensed teachers) to help prepare youth to be re-integrated into society. North Carolina operates four youth development centers: the Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center in Concord; the C. A. Dillon Youth Development Center in Butner; the Chatham Youth Development Center in Siler City; and the Dobbs Youth Development Center in Kinston. For more information on North Carolina’s youth development centers, click here.
House Bill 295 was supported unanimously in both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor McCrory on May 29, 2015.