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Archive for January, 2010

Yesterday was a busy but good day at the General Assembly.

SB 259 sponsored by Senator Lucas was unanimously voted out of the Senate Courts of Justice committee!  It was set for its first reading on the Senate floor’s uncontested docket today and will hopefully move through the Senate without any problem. SB 259 will reduce the number of youth housed with adult offenders in adult jails by requiring evidence finding of dangerousness (other than the youth is being tried as an adult) before a youth can be moved from a juvenile detention center to an adult jail.

Both SB 205 sponsored by Senator Edwards and SB 389 sponsored by Senator McDougle were referred out of the Senate Courts of Justice committee to the Virginia State Crime Commission yesterday.   We are pleased with this outcome as it will avoid the unnecessary broadening of Virginia’s transfer laws at this time.  As we have said before, we believe that more study of this issue will further highlight the problems with Virginia’s transfer system making the need for change even more apparent.  Additional time will allow us to add more groups to the 45+ already showing their support for reform by signing on to the Campaign, to open the eyes of more people to the problems with trying youth as adults, to gather more stories about how transfer is impacting our youth, families, and communities, and to grow the Don’t Throw Away the Key Campaign.

There are still bills in the House of Delegates that would result in negative changes to the transfer system.  We will keep you posted on how those proceed and there will certainly be opportunities for advocacy when those bills are set to be heard.

Action Steps:

  1. Thank Senator Lucas for her sponsorship of SB 259 and the members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee (Marsh (Chairman), Saslaw, Quayle, Norment, Howell, Lucas, Edwards, Reynolds, Puller, Obenshain, McDougle, Deeds, Hurt, McEachin, Petersen) for their votes on SB 259!  You can express your thanks to the Senators by phone call, email, or letter.

The name and contact information for your Senator can be found here:

http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform

  1. Thank Senator Edwards for his patronage of SB 205 and support for reform of Virginia’s system of trying youth as adults.   Senator Edwards’ contact information is below:

General Assembly Building, Room 309
Capitol Square
Richmond, Virginia 23219
(804) 698-7521
email: district21@senate.virginia.gov

  1. Be on the lookout for more information as the session progresses! Things move quickly during the General Assembly session so watch your email closely and be prepared to take action on short notice.
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Dear Friends,

This morning Senator Lucas’ bill SB 205 which would limit the number of transferred youth held in adult jail pretrial passed out of the criminal subcommittee and will move on to the full Senate Courts of Justice committee.  I anticipate that it will be heard at 9 a.m. on Monday morning by the committee but will have to provide more definite information once it is available. 

Senator McDougle’s bill SB 389 was passed by for the day this morning while Senator Edward’s bill SB 205 was heard.  Thanks to everyone who came out in support of Senator Edwards and this bill! Special thanks to those of you who gave testimony!  In light of the similar subject matter covered by these two bills, Senator Edwards and Senator McDougle have agreed to meet and discuss a possible compromise on the issue.  We will keep you posted on what comes of that meeting.

Overall, it was a very successful morning.

However, we still need your help! Here’s how:

Thank you for your continued support.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns.

Kate Duvall

434-284-0869

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The 2010 Session of the Virginia General Assembly started on Wednesday January 13th.  The session will last for sixty days and ends on March 13th.   The issue of trying youth as adults will be front and center during the session. We need your help!

On the positive side, two bills have been proposed that could reduce the number of youth tried as adults, and the number of youth who are locked up in adult jails awaiting their trial as adults.

Bills that create positive change in the transfer system:

  • Senate Bill 205 (“SB 205”) sponsored by Senator John Edwards will limit the current broad unfettered authority of prosecutors to make transfer decisions by giving Circuit Court Judges the authority to send cases back to juvenile court where the Judge finds that the youth should not have been transferred to Circuit Court originally.

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=101&typ=bil&val=sb205

  • SB 259 sponsored by Senator Louise Lucas will reduce the number of youth housed with adult offenders in adult jails by requiring evidence finding  of dangerousness (other than the youth is being tried as an adult) before a youth can be moved from a juvenile detention center to an adult jail.

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=101&typ=bil&val=sb259

Unfortunately, even though we know that Virginia’s transfer system does not work, is not fair, and is not safe for youth or their communities, some bills have been proposed that will dramatically increase the number of youth tried as adults in Virginia by giving prosecutors even more power and making more crimes subject to automatic transfer.

Bills that will inappropriately increase the number of youth tried as adults:

  • House Bill (“HB”) 1120 sponsored by Delegate Todd Gilbert and SB 389 sponsored by Senator Ryan McDougle are companion bills. These bills unnecessarily add more categories of offenses to those subject to automatic transfer and those where the prosecutor has unilateral power to transfer youth. These changes will dramatically increase the number of youth who are tried as adults and locked up with adults. These bills mandate that youth charged with a second act of violence as defined in §19.2-297.1 be tried as adults. They also expand the authority of Commonwealth’s Attorneys to decide to try youth as adults for gang offenses and second or subsequent violations selling, distributing, etc., various controlled substances including marijuana.

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=101&typ=bil&val=hb1120

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=101&typ=bil&val=sb389

  • HB 569 sponsored by Delegate Sal Iaquinto adds the additional felonies of “committing, conspiring, or aiding and abetting an act of terrorism or possession, manufacture, or distribution of a weapon of terrorism or a hoax device…” to the list of felonies which Commonwealth’s Attorneys have the discretion to send to adult court.

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=101&typ=bil&val=hb569

  • HB911 sponsored by Delegate Robert Bell mandates “that if a case against a juvenile 14 years of age or older for an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult is transferred from the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to the Circuit Court, all ancillary charges to that offense, even though they may not be felonies, are likewise transferred.”

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=101&typ=bil&val=hb911

 

The Senate Bills listed above are where we need to initially focus.  Take Action and Support the Passage of SB 259 and SB 205 and Prevent the Passage  SB 389 ( think we should, in this email just ask them to focus on the bills that senate courts will hear soon and not ask them to discuss house bills yet):

  1. The bills will first go to the Senate Courts of Justice Criminal Subcommittee.  If your Senator is on this subcommittee, contact him or her by letter, email, or telephone call and encourage them to vote “yes” on SB 259 and SB 205 and “no“on SB 389.   The following Senators are on the Senate Courts of Justice Criminal Subcommittee: Tommy Norment, Janet Howell, Roscoe Reynolds, Ryan McDougle, Creigh Deeds, or Robert Hurt.

The name and contact information for your Senator can be found here:

http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform

Talking points to be used as a guide for your contact can be found here.

Be on the lookout for more information as the session progresses! Things move quickly during the General Assembly session so watch your email closely and be prepared to take action on short notice. We will do our best to keep you up to date as things progress.

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