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Virginia Commission on Youth Adopts Recommendations on Juvenile Detention Centers

The Virginia Commission on Youth held its final meeting of the year on October 19, advancing recommendations from its studies on the effectiveness and efficiency of Virginia’s juvenile detention centers and the transition process for students with disabilities reaching the age of majority. At its September 21 meeting, the Commission circulated a set of draft recommendations from its study of juvenile detention centers, including the following proposals of particular interest to local governments:
  • Directing or requesting the Department of Juvenile Justice to implement a process to identify specific juvenile detention centers to be defunded and consolidated to align facility capacity with regional needs.
  • Requesting the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, in coordination with the Secretary of Education, to develop a reinvestment plan to meet the needs of public safety and education for juvenile detention centers, taking into consideration ways to reinvest savings from facility consolidation in places or programs for youth who are in or at risk of becoming part of the juvenile justice system.
  • Providing additional resources for the added transportation time and expenses that may be imposed on law enforcement offices as a result of consolidating juvenile detention centers. Options proposed include providing additional funding to reimburse sheriffs for transportation costs and creating a state-administered fund for off-duty or retired sheriffs and law enforcement officers to provide transportation for juveniles on an as-needed basis.
  • Several recommendations would direct the state to work with detention centers to repurpose unused capacity on a voluntary basis, to include assistance with potential grant opportunities and streamlining of regulations for licensing of co-located facilities by the Department of Social Services (DSS) and/or the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS).
VACo submitted comments expressing concern about a state-driven process of consolidation, given the significant local investment in the operations of juvenile detention centers, and suggesting that proposals to assist localities that are interested in redeploying unused capacity in detention centers with the complexities of redesigning and repurposing space could be helpful.  In light of concerns expressed by VACo and other commenters, the Commission opted to advance a compromise recommendation, which would request that the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, VACo, VML, and affected localities conduct an assessment of needs regarding juvenile detention centers, taking into consideration potential cost savings from consolidation or repurposing, and discussing potential reinvestment in services for youth who are in or at risk of becoming part of the juvenile justice system.  The group would also be requested to assess and consider alternative delivery models of education services.  A status report would be due to the Commission by July 1, 2023, with a final report and recommendations due by December 1, 2023. The Commission also adopted a series of recommendations intended to improve the process for students with disabilities as they transition out of the K-12 system and into adulthood.  Key recommendations include:
  • Requiring the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, in coordination with the Department of Education and representatives from community services boards (CSBs) and local education agencies, to develop and disseminate best practice standards to CSBs and local education agencies about how to work with local education agencies, private placement entities, students, and families through the transition process, to include information about what special education, service, or accommodation records to transfer at the age of majority and/or high school completion.
  • Directing the improved dissemination of online resources to individuals of transition age and their families, and requesting the development and dissemination of virtual training for teachers on transition resources and services.
  • Requesting that the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) continue to develop internship opportunities for students with disabilities, working with state agencies, local governments, business organizations, and other stakeholders.
  • Requesting that the Secretary of Education, in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Secretary of Labor, and Secretary of Commerce and Trade, investigate the feasibility of developing a comprehensive program to reduce unemployment among adults with disabilities.
  • Funding a transition coordinator grant program to be administered through the Virginia Department of Education. Transition coordinators would be employed by local school divisions and work with other community partners to assist students with disabilities and their families in preparing for future service needs and employment opportunities.
VACo Contacts:  Dean A. Lynch, CAE, and Katie Boyle
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