Exclusive: Inside Mecklenburg County’s Juvenile Detention Center

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CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – It’s a sight no one wants to see–their child behind bars in a juvenile detention center, facing felony charges as a result of something that happened at school.

Increasingly, in the 2021-2022 school year, that has been happening in Mecklenburg County and more than people would like to admit.

Around two dozen incidents so far this school year involving a gun on a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools campus have resulted in arrests, along with fights at the schools.

Police respond to students fighting at North Mecklenburg High School for third day in a row

The stories have made headlines, but Queen City News wanted to see what happens after those headlines go away.  The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office recently granted us the opportunity to get a walk-through of their Juvenile Detention Center.

“When adults get processed, they have to go through a magistrate.  “They have to go get fingerprinted and processed,” said one deputy, who works at the complex.  “With juveniles, it’s more of a court counselor.”

From start to finish–once a child is arrested, they go to the center, where they receive a medical screening.  From there, they are processed, which involves a picture being taken for a state database, and a new wardrobe.

“Khaki pants, polo shirts, socks, t-shirts, underwear, the whole works,” said the deputy.

CMS has said that fights are at a higher point than in any school year.  Increased incidents of violence and guns on school property have been reflected in the Juvenile Detention Center’s population numbers.

“That felony is going to haunt you the rest of your life,” said Sheriff Garry McFadden.  “You’re going to take your family through courts, fees, and fines.”

“You’re going to have the emotional burden, as well,” said McFadden.

CMS officials said they are addressing incidents of violence with a number of initiatives, including beefing up security and anti-violence measures in schools across the district.  Officials recently announced a clear backpack policy, which will go into effect sometime in February.  Superintendent Earnest Winston has also asked parents to check their child’s backpacks.

McFadden said, while it may sound extreme, it may be one of the options parents need to consider to keep their children out of trouble, and out of Juvenile Detention.

“If you don’t invade their privacy, we’re going to have these incidents inside the schools,” McFadden said.

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