State Politics

NC merged its prison and police agencies. Now some want to break them up again

Boys pass time watching television in 2007 at the Polk Youth Institution juvenile detention facility in Butner.
Boys pass time watching television in 2007 at the Polk Youth Institution juvenile detention facility in Butner. TRAVIS LONG

Elevating the state’s prisons and juvenile-detention facilities into a single new Cabinet-level department is among the state Senate’s budget proposals.

The new Department of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice would be run by a secretary appointed by the governor. Currently, those functions are contained in the state Department of Public Safety, which is the largest agency in state government, with 26,000 employees and 11,000 National Guard soldiers. The Department of Public Safety also houses the State Bureau of Investigation and the State Highway Patrol.

Five years ago the legislature merged the separate adult and juvenile departments with what had been called the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety as a way of saving money. Now senators want to break them up to provide better supervision of inmates, according to Senate budget writers.

The adult and juvenile divisions would each be run by deputy secretaries. The new structure would go into effect in July 2018.

The budget includes staffing for a budget director, chief information officer and controller, and 10 human resources positions.

The Department of Public Safety did not request the change. A spokeswoman said Wednesday the department supports the governor’s budget, which did not propose the restructuring.

Other highlights in the Senate’s proposed justice and public safety budget include:

▪ Funding for 56 new deputy county clerks, aimed at helping judicial districts reach a goal of handling 95 percent of their workload.

▪ Funding for 37 new assistant district attorneys throughout the state.

▪ Eliminates funding for emergency superior court judges.

▪ Funds a 200-bed facility for women who have violated the terms of their probation and are required to serve 90-day sentences. It will be next to the Swannanoa Correctional Center for Women in Buncombe County.

▪ Provides additional money to contract for re-entry programs to help those released from prison to integrate into the community. Also expands transitional housing from the current 90 days to up to 180 days.

▪ Provides money for the second phase of the Samarcand Training Academy in Moore County, where law enforcement officers train.

▪ Includes funds for the state to work with Wilmington on a pilot project to help opiate and heroin overdose victims get follow-up treatment.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO