When a juvenile is charged with a crime in New Jersey, they may be taken into custody depending on factors like the nature of their alleged offense, whether they have prior violations of other court orders, and whether they pose a threat to public safety. In this article, we’ll be focusing on the Atlantic Youth Center, also known as the Atlantic County Juvenile Detention Center, or simply Harborfields. If your son or daughter is in custody at Harborfields, contact our criminal defense lawyers right away for help. We have successfully represented countless juveniles charged with serious crimes, including drug distribution, sexual assault, and burglary in Atlantic County.

When Are Juveniles Detained at Harborfields? Does My Child Need a Lawyer?

If your child was arrested in New Jersey, you should strongly consider contacting a juvenile crimes attorney to represent him or her. It is absolutely mandatory  for your child to have legal representation during any formal court hearings, and furthermore, your attorney will make sure that your child’s Constitutional rights are not violated or abused while handling your legal documents and helping your family understand its options. You should receive a notice requiring the assignment of legal counsel, at which point you’ll need to decide between hiring a private attorney and going through the process of applying for a public defender. But before you make your decision, be forewarned that public defenders are chronically overburdened with excessive caseloads, whereas a private attorney can devote all of his or her time and energy to handling your child’s case with the undivided attention it deserves.

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After the juvenile has been arrested, the parents will be notified, and the case will be reviewed by Juvenile Intake to determine whether placement in Harborfields is appropriate. In order for a juvenile to be placed into Harborfields, they must have been “deemed unsuitable for release” – for instance, because they have a history of noncompliance with previous court orders – while awaiting their next court appearance.

Harborfields has the capacity to house up to 19 males and eight females, all between the ages of 12 and 18 years. Other than housing adolescents while they await trial or other court appearances, the purpose of Harborfields is to prepare juveniles to either return home, or, where appropriate, to transition into Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) programs. (For example, if you live in Monmouth or Ocean County, your son or daughter might be placed into a JJC program called the Ocean/Monmouth Day Program, which is designed for teenagers between 14 and 18, and usually lasts for a period of five months.) Harborfields also offers parenting classes, counseling for drug and alcohol abuse, and GED prep.

Visitation Rules and Contact Information for the Atlantic County Youth Center

Harborfields is located at the following address:

Buffalo Avenue & Duerer Street
Egg Harbor City, NJ 08215

You can contact Harborfields by calling (609) 965-3583, or by sending a fax to (609) 965-7962. The current Superintendent is Kimery Lewis, and the Assistant Superintendent is Wayne Ford.

Unfortunately, unlike adults, juveniles are not eligible to be released on bail, which is a payment to secure release from custody. However, you may visit your child during Harborfields’ visiting hours, which are 7:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. on Thursday evenings for parents. If you are a family friend or a relative other than a parent, you may visit from 1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. on Sundays. If these hours don’t work for you, you may be able to arrange a special visit with permission from the Superintendent. When you arrive for visitation, be sure to bring a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license or passport. If you are under 18, you must be accompanied by an adult.

Even more importantly than the right to visitation, your child also has the right to a pre-release hearing, during which the judge will consider a few different factors to determine whether release is appropriate. These factors include:

  • Whether your child presents a danger to the public.
  • Whether releasing your child would jeopardize his or her own safety or wellbeing.
  • Whether your child’s identity and home address have been confirmed.
  • The likelihood of your child returning for future court hearings as instructed.

As a parent, you are not legally required to appear at your son or daughter’s hearing. However, if you do attend, you will have the opportunity to testify and/or answer questions asked of you by the judge. (Don’t worry if you aren’t the most eloquent speaker: your child’s attorney will handle most of the talking, and as a general rule, you actually shouldn’t speak in court unless you are specifically called upon to do so.) Be advised that the victim of the alleged offense – and his or her parents, if he or she is also a minor – also has the right to attend the hearing.

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If your child is in custody at Harborfields or has been charged with a crime in Atlantic County, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to set up a free, completely confidential legal consultation with one of our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers. We handle a wide range of common juvenile offenses, including underage drinking, marijuana possession, criminal trespassing, and more.