Juvenile Justice Pandemic Lessons

This article was originally published on the UNC School of Government blog On the Civil Side and has been republished with permission.

The Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee (JJAC) met on May 15. 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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Disproportionate Minority Contact in North Carolina

By Eric J. Zogry 

In June 2019, Disproportionate Minority Contact in North Carolina: An Assessment Study by Stan Orchowsky, Ph.D., Cambiare Consulting and Michael J. Leiber, Ph.D. and Chae M. Jaynes, Ph.D., University of South Florida, was released through a grant from the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission. This was the first statewide study on disproportionate minority contact (DMC) in the juvenile justice system since 2013.

The goal of the assessment study was to determine whether, where and why DMC exists in North Carolina’s juvenile justice system. The analysis is based on using the Relative Rate Index, or “RRI.” The RRI is the ratio of the proportion of minority youth at a given stage to the proportion of white youth at that same stage. If both groups are being processed at the same rate, then the RRI would be equal to 1. RRIs above 1 indicate disproportionate minority contact at that stage of the system.

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Coronavirus Updates and Resources for Parents and Students

By Jen Story

Update: Since this compilation of updates and resources was published last week, new guidance has been released by the US Department of Education and Governor Cooper has issued a second executive order extending school closures. Legal Aid staff are in communication with state officials about these changes and will have updated information and more practical tips posted to the website below by the end of this week or early next week.  Please continue to check back!

Legal Aid of North Carolina has put together a resource with summaries of Coronavirus updates related to students’ access to school. Specifically, we included updates and tips related to:

  1. school closures;
  2. educational access for students while schools are closed;
  3. educational access for special education students while schools are closed;
  4. student nutrition services while schools are closed;
  5. student privacy rights related to the COVID-19 outbreak;
  6. general federal and state resources; and
  7. miscellaneous resources for students and families.

Much of this is and will be in flux in the coming weeks, and so we plan to monitor things closely and will update the guide on an ongoing basis as we receive updated information. To that end, people should continue to check back for updated information.

Fight Hunger, Help Others in the COVID-19 Pandemic – Participate in the Legal Feeding Frenzy and Support Your Local Food Bank!

Michele Livingstone

Will Quick

By Michele Livingstone and Will Quick

We are in unprecedented times with COVID-19 (Coronavirus).  It is now more important than ever that we help our neighbors and those who are not as fortunate. I am confident that each of you is doing your part.

Even in the best of times, however, over 1.5 Million North Carolinians struggle with hunger—of those, nearly half a million are children. With public schools and many religious and nonprofit organizations that traditionally serve the food insecure in our communities being closed for indefinite periods, and government leaders calling for social distancing to help limit the spread of Coronavirus, that need is never more pressing than now.

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Raise the Age Tips and Resources for Law Enforcement

Jacquelyn Greene, Assistant Professor of Public Law and Government for the UNC School of Government, recently posted the following item regarding the new Raise the Age law on the On the Civil Side blog of the UNC School of Government:

Advocacy in your Local Community

By Jared Simmons

According to the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, over 10,000 children in North Carolina are in the foster care system as of 2018.  Since 1983, the North Carolina juvenile system has supported the role of the Guardian ad Litem in each case to be a strong voice for children in the courtroom. In 2015, I observed a minor child describe the sexual abuse and exploitation they endured. The child testified their mother had sold access to them for opioids and other substances while in the mother’s custody. I was shocked and appalled, and I quickly learned there was a growing need in our communities for child advocacy.

In 2016, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be trained as a Guardian ad Litem, and was assigned my first case; four children in my local community needed an advocate in the courtroom to pursue permanency and achieve stability. As the Guardian ad Litem for the children, I was able to get my first look into the development of an abuse/neglect/dependency case in North Carolina. After a few years of visits, hearings, and advocacy, all four of those children have achieved permanency.

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Riding the Waves of Change: 2019 Legislative Review

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By Christina Cress
Four NCBA Sections are combining their respective experience and subject matter expertise to bring you an informative CLE highlighting this session’s legislative updates.

The Administrative Law Section; Environment, Energy & Natural Resources Law Section; Government & Public Sector Section; and Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section are teaming up to bring you a 6.0‑credit hour CLE beginning at 8:15 a.m. on Friday, November 8, titled “Riding the Waves of Change: 2019 Legislative Review.”  Although it will be available by webcast and On Demand, we encourage you to attend live so that you can enjoy fellowship and networking during breakfast and lunch, both of which are include in your CLE registration.

The content-packed agenda features speakers who are both seasoned veterans on Jones Street and those who are relatively new to lobbying.  The sessions are both broad enough to include tips for all lawyers and practice areas, but sufficiently tailored to provide a specific substantive update on the most salient legislative actions taken this session as well as a general refresher of legislative procedure 101!  Come learn what the North Carolina General Assembly has (or has not) changed and the practical effects of those changes.  Brush up on your legislative procedure knowledge and skills.  Hear about the most debated and followed bills of the current legislative session.

Specific sessions include a Hot Topics Potpourri Panel moderated by Bain Jones, featuring panelists Jack Nichols, Reginald O’Rourke, and Robin L. Tatum.  You also will hear from Karen Brinson Bell, Bob Joyce, Katelyn Love, and Bruce Thompson, II, during our Elections and Redistricting Updates.  Meisha Evans and Nick Fountain will bring you Legislative Process 101.  Dixon Snukals will take you on a deep dive into Environmental and Energy updates.  And LaToya Powell will end the day with an update on Juvenile Justice Reform and Child Welfare Law.

There truly is something for everyone in this CLE – even if not in your specific practice area, then at least in your role as a citizen of the Old North State!  We hope you will join us!

Racial Equity Institute Introductory Groundwater Training Set For May 9 At the Bar Center


By Niya Fonville

Imagine being asked “Hey girl, what attorney are you here for?” by a court official or having a client you have never met claim (in a phone consultation) that “all the N-word and Mexicans are taking over and I can’t get help.” Then imagine being expected to zealously advocate for clients and be confident in the judge’s decision in spite of these statements to you. Now imagine being a 25-year-old, newly minted attorney when these “conversations” take place.

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JJCR Section Member Wins National Recognition For Youth Justice Reform Efforts

Two North Carolinians – State Rep. Marcia Morey and Brandy Bynum Dawson – are being recognized as leaders in youth justice reform by the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN), based in Washington, D.C. The leadership awards honor advocates working at the state level who have championed the cause of youth justice reform. These individuals have shown themselves to be true friends of and advocates for youth in trouble with the law, and the awards recognize their commitment to creating a smaller, fairer, and more equitable juvenile justice system.

“We wanted to honor these leaders because they understand that North Carolina’s youth justice system is like a maze, with too many entrances and lots of dead ends,” said Sarah Bryer, the executive director of the National Juvenile Justice Network. “They’ve each done crucial work to redesign the maze with fewer entrances and clearer pathways out, so that our justice system makes sense and kids can be rehabilitated and contribute to their communities.”

Brandy Bynum Dawson

We recognize Brandy Bynum Dawson, Rural Forward NC associate director and a member of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section, because of her decade plus commitment to raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction in North Carolina, which laid the groundwork and inspired the final passage of the Raise the Age legislation. “Brandy has engaged in exceptional advocacy and serves as a visionary leader for youth justice system reform in North Carolina,” said Ricky Watson, co-director of the Youth Justice Project. “Her deep and passionate support of young people has positively impacted the trajectory of so many.”

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Member Highlights: Meet Our Children’s Champion Award Winner, Deana Fleming

By LaToya Powell

On May 10, 2018, the Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section presented the inaugural Children’s Champion Award at our annual meeting to commemorate the section’s 20th anniversary. The award honors a member of the section who has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to protecting the rights of children and improving the administration of justice for court-involved youth. In other words, a true Children’s Champion. Recipients of the award also must be contributing members of the section. Deana Fleming, the first Children’s Champion, truly embodies these qualities and more.

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