Morris County Prosecutor's Office Hosts Forum on Juvenile Justice

Published on September 17, 2021

The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office hosted a virtual community forum to educate and engage the community on the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Directive on September 16, 2021.

Hosted by Morris County Prosecutor Robert J. Carroll, the forum’s panelists were Morris County Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Samantha DeNegri, Judge Michael P. Wright, Mount Olive Police Chief Steve Beecher, Morris County Public Defender Ana Tent, Assistant Chief Probation Officer Cindy Cuenca, and Youth Services Coordinator Jessica Mondino. Also in attendance was First Assistant Prosecutor Maggie Calderwood and Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Sgt. Patrick LaGuerre.

The forum served to introduce the community to a directive issued by the Attorney General’s Office in December 2020, which establishes policies, practices, and procedures to further juvenile justice reform by diverting juveniles away from law enforcement and toward social or familial support whenever possible, consistent with public safety and welfare.

The directive outlines five mechanisms available to police officers and prosecutors to divert youth from the juvenile justice system and limit the likelihood of unnecessary detention - Curbside Warnings, Stationhouse Adjustments, Use of Complaint-Summonses, Presumption Against Pretrial Juvenile Detention, and Post-Charge Diversion. Panelists described how their roles in the juvenile justice system, and how they are incorporating aspects of the new directive into their operations.

During a Q&A session, attendees asked about what suicide prevention resources are contained in these practices. It was noted that the avoidance of criminal prosecution is an important factor in providing hope of a future to juveniles in trouble.  Further, the diversion aspects can provide counseling, medical, addiction and other resources that involve direct contact with juvenile subjects which can help identify suicidal ideations and loss of hope.  In addition to professional resources, the community, social and family components will help reorient juveniles to productive behaviors.  The problem has been identified and now needs the attention it deserves.

Prosecutor Carroll said, “The MCPO is keenly interested in helping juveniles avoid involvement in criminal conduct, and a key component is to have flexibility in dealing with youthful offenders, by having available effective alternatives to criminal arrest and prosecution.  The new Juvenile Justice Directive enables that concept.  Police can now call upon community, social and family resources to provide eligible youth the support needed to conform to legal and social norms, thus avoiding unacceptable escalation of misconduct.  Enhanced data reporting will also allow meaningful analysis to determine what new methods are working best to reduce juvenile crime.”

Inquiries concerning this press release should be directed to Public Information Officer Meghan Knab at [email protected] or by phone at 973-829-8159.  

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