State Leaders Study Virginia Juvenile Justice Transformation

Posted April 11, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog stateleadersstudyvirginia 2017

The Nation­al Gov­er­nors Asso­ci­a­tion (NGA) is bring­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of five states and ter­ri­to­ries to Rich­mond, Vir­ginia, this week to learn about Virginia’s trans­for­ma­tion in juve­nile jus­tice and its spe­cif­ic strate­gies for reduc­ing juve­nile incar­cer­a­tion, an evo­lu­tion the Casey Foun­da­tion has invest­ed in and sup­port­ed with tech­ni­cal assis­tance for the past two years.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Illi­nois, Ken­tucky, Louisiana, Okla­homa and the Vir­gin Islands will learn how the admin­is­tra­tion of Gov. Ter­ry McAu­li­ffe and Virginia’s Depart­ment of Juve­nile Jus­tice (DJJ) are exe­cut­ing a com­mon-sense approach to hold­ing youth account­able and keep­ing com­mu­ni­ties safe by replac­ing its last two juve­nile cor­rec­tion cen­ters in the state with small­er, treat­ment-inten­sive secure care pro­grams. The approach starts with a statewide con­tin­u­um of com­mu­ni­ty-based pro­grams that give youth the guid­ance and net­work of sup­port they need to get back on track. For the few who require secure con­fine­ment, it pre­scribes small­er, clos­er-to-home res­i­den­tial pro­grams that pri­or­i­tize reha­bil­i­ta­tion, offer­ing a path out and a path for­ward. This approach is con­sis­tent with rec­om­men­da­tions that the Nation­al Insti­tute of Jus­tice issued in a recent report with the Har­vard Kennedy School, co-authored by Casey Pres­i­dent and CEO Patrick McCarthy.

Virginia’s ulti­mate goal is bet­ter out­comes for young peo­ple in the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem and safer com­mu­ni­ties,” said Nate Balis, direc­tor of the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. Gov­er­nors and state offi­cials every­where want these same out­comes. They can learn from Virginia’s expe­ri­ence and adapt what works for their own systems.”

One strat­e­gy the state teams will be explor­ing dur­ing the learn­ing lab is clos­ing large res­i­den­tial facil­i­ties. The NGA-led group will vis­it Virginia’s Bön Air Juve­nile Cor­rec­tion­al Cen­ter (JCC), where they will learn first­hand about the facil­i­ty trans­for­ma­tion process, includ­ing chang­ing oper­a­tional cul­ture, improv­ing ser­vices with­in a secure set­ting and strength­en­ing youth and fam­i­ly services.

Virginia’s hard work is gain­ing traction:

  • The Depart­ment of Juve­nile Jus­tice recent­ly award­ed con­tracts that will expand its capac­i­ty to pro­vide effec­tive, com­mu­ni­ty-based ser­vices. Youth do bet­ter and com­mu­ni­ties stay safer when high-qual­i­ty inter­ven­tions are avail­able to get youth back on track with­in their home communities.
  • These new ser­vices will be fund­ed by rein­vest­ment of sav­ings from the down­siz­ing of Virginia’s juve­nile cor­rec­tion­al cen­ters, thanks to a new bud­get­ing author­i­ty that passed the Gen­er­al Assem­bly with broad bipar­ti­san support.
  • To secure the sav­ings nec­es­sary to fund the rein­vest­ment, DJJ is safe­ly reduc­ing its pop­u­la­tion of youth in state cus­tody. Since Gov­er­nor McAu­li­ffe took office in 2014, the pop­u­la­tion in the JCCs has fall­en by more than half.
  • DJJ has invest­ed heav­i­ly in staff train­ing and sup­port to improve con­di­tions and cul­ture with­in the JCCs in the short term, includ­ing strength­en­ing rela­tion­ships between youth and staff; engag­ing fam­i­lies and offer­ing trans­porta­tion for vis­its; focus­ing rig­or­ous­ly on edu­ca­tion, career and skills devel­op­ment and pro­vid­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for youth lead­er­ship such as stu­dent government.

Through the learn­ing lab, states will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn from the great work being done in Vir­ginia to improve out­comes for youth involved in their juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems,” said Jeff McLeod, home­land secu­ri­ty and pub­lic safe­ty direc­tor for the NGA Cen­ter for Best Practices.

Read The Future of Youth Justice

Read how Vir­ginia is engag­ing youth from the state’s juve­nile cor­rec­tions centers

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