B. Hunt, Governor
|Emergency response teams prepare for action||
Professionals help set up Office of Juvenile Justice
Smart Start and education are Gov. Jim Hunts top priorities, but improving the criminal justice system is still on his front burner, especially when it comes to juvenile delinquents.
"Juvenile crime has become a crisis in North Carolina," said Hunt. "In the past 20 years, murders by juveniles have jumped 150 percent, drug crimes have doubled, and weapons crimes have skyrocketed. But weve set out to change all that through the Juvenile Justice Reform Act. This act combines swift, tough punishment for young offenders with effective prevention efforts to reduce crime."
Part of that act, passed unanimously by the General Assembly last October, sets up a more effective juvenile justice system. The Juvenile Services Division of the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Division of Youth Services under the Department of Health and Human Services have merged into the Office of Juvenile Justice.
"The ultimate goal is to turn these young lives around and keep them from coming into the prison system," said former Correction Secretary Mack Jarvis who has been working with the governor on the merger. "Having all the juvenile offices under one centralized agency is just plain sense. This union will create better communication and a stronger team to give these kids the best help we can possibly offer."
"These employees already have a knowledge of rehabilitative and preventative programs," Jarvis said, "and thats the thrust of the General Assemblys bill to set up prevention programs."
The Office of Juvenile Justice will be under the Governors Office until April 2000.Then a recommendation will be made to the General Assembly to either place the division in another state agency or have it become a stand-alone agency with a secretary.
Gov. Hunt asked Jarvis to head the transition team and to do a nationwide search for a director of the new agency. Jarvis interviewed potential candidates from Maine, Minnesota, Florida and North Carolina. Former Winston-Salem Police Chief George Sweatt, known for his innovative programs with offenders, was the recommended candidate. Gov. Hunt named Sweatt to the Juvenile Justice post on Jan. 14.
Deputy Secretary Theodis Beck served on one of the four committees charged with formulating the Governors Council on Juvenile Justice. Virginia Price, Sandy Pearce, Doug Holbrook, and Janice King staffed two of those committees.
Jarvis worked with Jim Drennan, former AOC director, to work out a process in setting up juvenile day reporting centers and getting discretionary funding for programs in all 100 counties. William Mann will lend computer support from his new job in DOCs Management Information Services section.
Jarvis and Lowe worked with the State Property Office to find a location to put the DYS and AOC employees under one roof. About 85 or 90 employees moved to a former CP&L building on Salisbury Street in Raleigh in mid-March.
The agency will be over all the juvenile detention and training centers, Eckerd Camps, court counselors and community-based treatment programs.
"Corrections is providing some of the leadership to put this new team together," Lowe said. "There will be much more emphasis on treatment for these juveniles, and those of us who have worked with adult offenders are looking forward to working on the front end of the agency that could prevent our correction system from bulging on the other end in the future." u
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