Youth Incarcerated in Virginia’s Juvenile Correctional Centers Present Ideas to Governor

Posted October 17, 2016
Blog youthincarceratedpresentideas 2016

In a mile­stone encounter, youth and staff from Virginia’s two Juve­nile Cor­rec­tion­al Cen­ters (JCCs) met with Vir­ginia Gov. Ter­ry McAu­li­ffe recent­ly at the state­house to present their ideas about form­ing a res­i­dent gov­ern­ment with­in the insti­tu­tions. The unusu­al meet­ing was part of the governor’s work to take Virginia’s juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem in a new, more reha­bil­i­ta­tive direction.

With bipar­ti­san sup­port from the state leg­is­la­ture, Gov. McAu­li­ffe is lead­ing efforts to trans­form the state’s juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem by replac­ing the two juve­nile cor­rec­tion cen­ters in the state with small­er, treat­ment-inten­sive secure care pro­grams. The Casey Foun­da­tion has pro­vid­ed staff assis­tance and train­ing to sup­port Virginia’s reform efforts. Foun­da­tion Pres­i­dent and CEO Patrick McCarthy has pledged to sup­port states that join the Foundation’s com­mit­ment to close large secure juve­nile facil­i­ties that resem­ble adult cor­rec­tions facil­i­ties and replace them with a bet­ter mod­el that helps kids lever­age their strengths, includes fam­i­lies as a crit­i­cal sup­port sys­tem and ensures com­mu­ni­ties are equipped to pro­vide need­ed services.

The new approach in Vir­ginia empha­sizes reha­bil­i­ta­tion to help youth become suc­cess­ful adults. Research tells us that a vital tool to pro­mot­ing youth devel­op­ment is engage­ment: the mean­ing­ful, sus­tained involve­ment of a young per­son in out­side activ­i­ties. To cre­ate more oppor­tu­ni­ties for engage­ment among youth in the JCCs, Vir­ginia is revamp­ing its Youth Advi­so­ry Coun­cils. His­tor­i­cal­ly, these coun­cils have served as forums in which JCC res­i­dents can meet with facil­i­ty super­in­ten­dents to dis­cuss their res­i­den­tial unit’s issues. Now, as part of the McAu­li­ffe administration’s new direc­tion, the coun­cils are set­ting out to estab­lish a form of rep­re­sen­ta­tive gov­ern­ment. This stu­dent gov­ern­ment body will help res­i­dents have a voice and greater own­er­ship of their units and neigh­bor­hoods” (res­i­den­tial areas), and give them a chance to make rec­om­men­da­tions on cam­pus mat­ters to all lev­els of management.

In the meet­ing with McAu­li­ffe, First Lady Dorothy McAu­li­ffe and the governor’s team, mem­bers of the Beau­mont and Bön Air JCC Youth Advi­so­ry Coun­cils, as well as staff from each facil­i­ty, described how they would form a res­i­dent gov­ern­ment. They lis­tened to advice from senior gov­ern­ment offi­cials about the key ele­ments of gov­ern­ment, such as fair elec­tions, con­stituent ser­vice and compromise.

McAu­li­ffe vis­it­ed the Beau­mont JCC in Jan­u­ary, becom­ing the first Vir­ginia gov­er­nor to do so. We love you, and we want you to be suc­cess­ful,” the gov­er­nor told a group of res­i­dents there. The gov­er­nor referred to his inter­ac­tion with jus­tice-involved youth in his most recent State of the Com­mon­wealth address. He not­ed that before Christ­mas, a group of young men from the Beau­mont JCC vis­it­ed the exec­u­tive man­sion to present the McAu­li­ffes with a quilt that the youth had designed and cre­at­ed over the course of a year as a form of ther­a­py. In his State of the Com­mon­wealth address, the Gov­er­nor empha­sized the promise in youth’s lives and described the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Juve­nile Justice’s new approach as one that empha­sizes treat­ment, edu­ca­tion and prepa­ra­tion for a pro­duc­tive life for youth.

The quilt is on dis­play in the lob­by of the Patrick Hen­ry gov­ern­ment build­ing in Richmond.

Learn more about anoth­er governor’s pledge to close a youth prison.

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