The agency overseeing North Carolina’s youth detention centers and training schools is still grappling with assaults, run-down facilities, and a shortage of personnel four years after a blistering state audit uncovered dangerous conditions for staff and juvenile offenders, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. The state Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention recently admitted responsibility – and paid a $500,000 settlement – for failing to prevent a 16-year-old from committing suicide at a detention center in Butner.
A review of an adjacent training school by 16 district court judges in 2005 found juveniles without vocational programs and lacking some social services. Another training school is the subject of a probe after reports of assaults by juveniles on staff. A recent tour of C.A. Dillon Youth Development Center in Butner shows how far the department has to go. The center could not hold school that day because there weren’t enough teachers. Poor building conditions cited in the audit remain. Cells had rusted metal doors. Water pooled in one hallway from a leak. The gym has a roughly 5-foot-wide patch of tiles missing near the middle of the basketball court that could lead to a twisted ankle. Despite such problems, the department is getting less oversight than ever before. “The department doesn’t care for any collaboration or oversight or comment,” said Durham County District Court Judge Marcia Morey, a well-known juvenile justice expert. “They would like to sail the ship the way they want to sail it.”