Juvenile detention center would close this year under proposed Mecklenburg budget

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Mecklenburg County would close its Juvenile Detention Center by Dec. 1 and freeze 90 vacant jobs under a $2.1 billion proposed budget released Thursday.

County Manager Dena Diorio said closing the facility off Statesville Road in north Charlotte would help mitigate the staffing shortage within the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office and reduce the cost to the county.

The facility once known as Jail North became the Mecklenburg County Juvenile Detention Center in 2020. The center is located on Spector Drive off Statesville Road in north Charlotte, NC.
The facility once known as Jail North became the Mecklenburg County Juvenile Detention Center in 2020. The center is located on Spector Drive off Statesville Road in north Charlotte, NC.

The proposed budget also “assumes” the average daily number of federal prisoners in the uptown detention center would fall to 250, which would cost the county $16.7 million from the federal government.

Some federal inmates were moved out of the Mecklenburg jail earlier this spring, The Charlotte Observer previously reported.

Closing the juvenile facility and freezing the open jobs would help mitigate the loss of federal money, Diorio said.

“Even with these reductions, the on-going cost to the County will be $4.5 million annually,” she said.

Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Janet Parker, in an email to The Charlotte Observer, confirmed that operations at the juvenile center would cease Dec. 1 “if and when” the county budget is adopted.

Existing staff at the juvenile facility will be consolidate with the uptown jail. This will help “improve staffing ratios” at a jail that’s been challenged by staff shortages, prompting safety concerns by the state.

As of noon Thursday, 55 juveniles were being held in the north Charlotte detention center, the Sheriff’s Office said. It’s not known what will happen to juveniles remaining at the facility on Dec. 1 if Diorio’s recommendations are approved.

The infrastructure already in place at Jail North, shown in 2016, made it easier to turn the facility into the Mecklenburg County Juvenile Detention Center four years later. The county manager’s proposed budget would close the facility by the end of 2022.
The infrastructure already in place at Jail North, shown in 2016, made it easier to turn the facility into the Mecklenburg County Juvenile Detention Center four years later. The county manager’s proposed budget would close the facility by the end of 2022.

In December, about two dozen juveniles were moved from the facility. This allowed 29 more officers to work at the uptown jail.

The 72-bed Juvenile Detention Center, once known Jail North, began operations in 2020 to accommodate more juvenile offenders under North Carolina’s Raise The Age law. Under the law that went into effect in 2019, most 16 and 17-year-olds charged with crimes would not automatically be sent to adult court, the Observer previously reported.

The state chose Jail North to house juveniles because it had a “youthful offender” housing unit, a high school and a variety of vocational and mental health programs, officials said at the time.

A public hearing is scheduled for May 25, and commissioners are expected to adopt the new budget June 22. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Observer staff writer Will Wright contributed to this report.

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