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SCOTUS begins issuing new opinions, with another expected related to the power of federal agencies, the battleground state of Wisconsin gets a ruling on alternative voting sites, and coastal work is being done to help salt marshes withstand hurricanes.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

Fewer NC youths locked up, but more juvenile justice reforms needed

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Monday, September 25, 2023   

The number of children behind bars in North Carolina has declined significantly in recent years, but their advocates said more work could be done to create effective alternatives to incarceration.

The one-day count of detained youths in 2021 was nearly 25,000 nationwide, which is a 60% decrease over the past decade, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Josh Rovner, director of youth justice for The Sentencing Project, said while the trend is positive, it should not be expected to continue. He pointed out at least part of the decrease was because of the pandemic.

"When you think about the things that kids get arrested for, it's often school-based referrals," Rovner observed. "And if virtual school is happening, then kids aren't going to be referred by their school resource officers. They're not going to be shoplifting if all the stores are closed; they're not going to be getting into fights if they're staying at home."

A one-day count in 2019 found almost 800 kids under 18 were in detention in North Carolina. By 2021, the number had dropped to 411. Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed young people released from correctional confinement have high rates of rearrest and new convictions.

Research has shown children who are incarcerated often experience significant long-term consequences, which Rovner noted persist into adulthood.

"Whether there's one child who is locked up -- or 10,000 or 100,000 -- it's important to realize just how toxic these facilities are for kids," Rovner contended. "They have much worse outcomes, not only on their education and career achievements, but also much more likely to reoffend."

Recognizing the adverse effects, experts and activists are asking for a more compassionate approach to juvenile justice. Reforms focusing on rehabilitation and community-based support systems have proven to be more effective in addressing the underlying issues than locking juveniles up.


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