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Archive for February, 2010

The House Courts of Justice, Criminal Law Subcommittee, will be taking up two important juvenile justice bills that we are supporting tomorrow afternoon.  The hearing will be held in House Room C at the General Assembly Building.  We encourage you to come down and show your support if you are able.  If you plan to attend the meeting, please arrive to the General Assembly Building by 11:30 a.m. and wear your “Don’t Throw Away the Key” button.

Phone calls or emails to your legislator are also very important.  Please see below for details.  Here is the information on the bills:

  • SB 259 (the pretrial detention of youth being tried as adults), Senator Lucas

SB 259 which passed unanimously out of the Senate will provide guidance and standards of judges when determining where youth who are being tried as adults should be detained.  Currently, there are no standards.  SB 259 creates a presumption that these youth should be held in juvenile detention centers unless they are a proven threat to the security of the other youth or staff at the facility in which case a judge can order them to go to an adult jail.  This would be a huge chance in the law and result in far fewer youth being held in the general population in adult jails where they are exposed to the harms and victimization that can come from that population and are also denied education and rehabilitation services.

This bill does not limit the number of youth who can be locked up pretrial, but it will make sure that those who are locked up are only placed in the adult population as a last resort.

  • SB 585 (access to counsel for youth in juvenile correctional centers), Senator Marsden

This bill will provide ongoing access to counsel for youth who are confined in state juvenile correctional centers.  Currently, in all too many cases, youth are confined miles from their homes, with limited access to their families, and no ongoing relationship with the lawyers who represented them. Out of sight, and out of mind, too many things can go wrong, as we recently learned from the Federal report on sex abuse in juvenile prisons across the country.  In Virginia, there was an extraordinarily high incidence of sexual abuse by wards at the hands of adult guards.  Having access to attorneys – adults who do not work for the Department of Juvenile Justice – will provide a level of protection to all youth in these prisons, and some oversight and transparency for what happens when they are confined.

Having ongoing access to the courts for confined youth is also a constitutional requirement but one that is meaningless without ongoing access to counsel.

Please call your legislators to urge their support for these bills.  These are the legislators on the committee:

Delegate H. Morgan Griffith   (R) – House District 8

DelMGriffith@house.virginia.gov; (804) 698-1008

Delegate David B. Albo   (R) – House District 42

DelDAlbo@house.virginia.gov; (804) 698-1042

Delegate Robert B. Bell   (R) – House District 58

DelRBell@house.virginia.gov; (804) 698-1058

Delegate Benjamin L. Cline   (R) – House District 24

DelBCline@house.virginia.gov; (804) 698-1024

Delegate C. Todd Gilbert   (R) – House District 15

DelTGilbert@house.virginia.gov; (804) 698-1015

Delegate Jackson H. Miller   (R) – House District 50

DelJMiller@house.virginia.gov; (804) 698-1050

Delegate Ward L. Armstrong   (D) – House District 10

DelWArmstrong@house.virginia.gov; (804) 698-1010

Delegate Vivian E. Watts   (D) – House District 39

DelVWatts@house.virginia.gov; (804) 698-1039

Delegate Charniele L. Herring   (D) – House District 46

DelCHerring@house.virginia.gov; (804) 698-1046

If you’re not sure who your legislator is, go to Who’s My Legislator?  at http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform.

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Success at the General Assembly

Dear Friends,

This week was an important milestone at the General Assembly and for our work on juvenile transfer.   All bills were required to be sent to the other house of the legislature by midnight on February 16th, this is known as “crossover.”  Most importantly, HB 1120 and HB 569 which would have increased the number of youth being tried as adults in Virginia and further eroded judicial discretion on these important decisions were not passed out of the House.  This means there will be no legislative expansion of transfer this session!! Congratulations! This success is due in large part to your support and advocacy.

But our work is not done yet. Youth in our state still need your help! SB 259 sponsored by Senator Louise Lucas has been sent to the House of Delegates and referred to the House Courts of Justice Criminal Subcommittee.  This bill creates a presumption that unless they are a proven threat to other kids or staff or security, youth being tried as adults must be detained in juvenile detention facilities, where they can receive education and counseling, rather than in the general population in adult jails.   This is an important legal change as the current law has no standards or guidance for judges when they make the decision about where to hold youth pending trial and will protect many youth from the dangers of adult jails.

Action Steps:

  1. Contact your Delegate by letter, email, or telephone call and encourage them to vote for SB 259.  This is particularly important if your Delegate is one of the following Delegates on the House Courts of Justice Criminal subcommittee: Griffith (Chairman), Albo, Bell, Robert B., Cline, Gilbert, Miller, J.H., Armstrong, Watts, Herring

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

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

Follow this link for talking points.

2. 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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