Back in October, we heard this powerful quote at the Gault Center’s Youth Leadership Summit Conference. This quote resonated with me and so many of the defenders present, as we all wrote it down on our notepads. After reflecting on this quote, I’ve thought about the different ways we as defenders can help support youth directly in their community. How can we as defenders contribute to creating a community that provides services, programs, and has direct impact of the direction of local youth justice policy? One is answer is to get involved in your local Juvenile Crime Prevention Council. Every day, we support youth when we defend them in court. But another way to contribute is involvement in your local Juvenile Crime Prevention Council or JCPC.
In North Carolina, each of our 100 counties has a Juvenile Crime Prevention Council. The councils were created with the intent to prevent youth from entering the juvenile justice system, to provide community-based alternatives to youth development centers, and to provide community-based treatment and service programs. Each JCPC receives an allocated amount from the Division of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to allocate and distribute to community programs. The JCPCs decide what services are needed, what programs are funded, and they also evaluate the efficacy of the programs. According to the NC Division of Juvenile Justice’s website, each JCPC has the responsibility to:
Review the needs of juveniles in the county who are at risk of delinquency or who have been adjudicated undisciplined or delinquent
Review the resources available to address those needs
Prioritize community risk factors
Determine the services needed to address those problems areas
Develop a request for proposal for services in need
Submit a written funding plan to the county commissioners for approval
Evaluate program performance
Increase public awareness of the causes of delinquency and strategies to reduce the problem
Develop strategies to intervene, respond to and treat the needs of juveniles at risk of delinquency
Provide funds for treatment, counseling, or rehabilitation services
JCPCs are made up of youth justice system stakeholders. Some examples of members are the local sheriff, local school superintendent or designee, the chief court counselor, the district attorney or designee, the chief district court judge or designee, two people under the age of 21, and others. All JCPCs also have space for a youth defender to sit on the board. Practically, this means, we as youth defenders can have a direct say in choosing the programs that serve many of the youth we represent. However, while all JCPCs have a space for a youth defender, in many counties, that spot is vacant. Many counties need the voice of a youth defender on their council.
While many counties need a youth defender, there are many defenders serving in this role statewide. In some counties, these defenders even chair these boards. Having served on the JCPC in my county, I was often able to gain valuable insight into the programs that our county offered. I was able to talk to stakeholders about what was effective and what wasn’t so helpful for my young clients. As defenders, we offer a unique perspective to these boards. We work directly with the population that these programs serve. We hear the stories from of our youth of what worked and what didn’t. With our experience, we can help select and influence the programs that many of clients are ordered to attend.
In reflecting on how we as defenders can help create a community that supports our youth, getting involved in your local JCPC is one possible solution. If you’re interested in learning more about JCPCs, please visit DJJ’s page here.
Also, if you serve on your local JCPC and are interested in connecting with other attorneys serving, please let me know, you can contact me here. Here at OJD, we are working on developing resources to support attorneys serving in this important role!