Lawyers representing six children sued North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley and Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr., yesterday, saying the two were not improving services intended to keep troubled youths from landing in juvenile prison. In Durham Superior Court, Lewis Pitts of Legal Aid of North Carolina, asks a judge to force Easley and Lake to follow the law governing juvenile justice. Under the law, the two lead an advisory council that is supposed to meet four times a year and recommend ways to improve children’s access to services ranging from mental health treatment to special-education classes.
The Raleigh News & Observer says that the council did not meet for two years until February, and neither Easley nor Lake attended then. Meanwhile, the budget for the state Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has been cut from $160 million in fiscal 2000 to $128 million in 2002. The council expected to meet tomorrow, with Easley participating by phone.
Despite efforts, the suit says, guardians and foster parents could not get preventive services for which their children were eligible. No one could find help for a 14-year-old Durham child who was born with cocaine in his system and is now thought to be in a gang. A Durham woman could not get mental health treatment for her nephew, 15, who was taken from his mother because of her drug abuse.