9 Investigates: Mecklenburg’s juvenile jail to close earlier than expected, causing concern

Mecklenburg County’s only juvenile jail, Jail North, will close Nov. 16, according to Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden. It was originally scheduled to close Dec. 1.

McFadden told Channel 9′s crime reporter Hunter Sáenz all of the roughly 30 juveniles still housed at the facility will be spread out around the state.

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“All over the state,” McFadden said. “They will go to wherever they have, as we say, a bed. So, if that bed is in Wilmington, they will go to Wilmington.”

As we first reported in June, due to staffing issues at the jail in Uptown, the state told McFadden he needed to reduce the inmate population.

To abide by the state’s requirements, McFadden said he decided to no longer house hundreds of federal prisoners in his jail.

However, because McFadden’s office is paid to house federal prisoners, it’ll lose more than $16 million.

In order to make up for that loss of money to their budget, McFadden said he made the tough decision to close Jail North to cut costs and increase staffing to his Uptown facility.

“A very, very difficult and a painful decision that we had to make in order to satisfy the state,” McFadden said.

He believes he was politically targeted and closing Jail North was his only option.

“The only way we can make all of that up and have the staffing that the state believed that we should have at our (Uptown) facility, is to close the (Jail North) facility,” McFadden said.

McFadden is disappointed it’s come to this and says the teens who get arrested from crimes in Mecklenburg County, along with their families, will suffer.

“It has an impact on the parents, it has an impact on their council, their lawyers - their lawyers have to travel to these places to talk to them,” McFadden said.

Lawyers like Taylor Adams, an assistant public defender in Mecklenburg County who, at times, represents juveniles accused of violent crimes.

“The fact that these are children, categorically -- is what moves this from a bureaucratic blunder into an outright tragedy,” Adams said.

He said parents who may not be able to afford a longer trip to visit their child will suffer, too.

“Many of them are poor, they cannot afford to drive to some other part of the state. The Jail North facility was on a bus line, it was accessible,” he said.

Taking children who are accused of crimes out of their communities and farther away from their support system or known resources could negatively impact their efforts on getting them back on the right path, Adams argued.

“It’s just going to further isolate somebody and further exacerbate whatever underlying issue that may have caused this alleged criminality,” he said.

He and his colleagues will make the longer trips to discuss their cases with their clients, he said.

However, he hopes for a different solution – hoping his clients can stay in their communities. If not, he believes youth crime will continue to rise.

McFadden shares the same concerns.

“It’s a crisis waiting to happen, and it will be a crisis,” McFadden said.

McFadden says Jail North will still be maintained. Administrators will work out of it and it will be kept as a backup jail in case of any emergencies.

He also said about 60 staff members from Jail North will move to Uptown to work at the jail there.

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