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Archive for February, 2011

2011 General Assembly Wrap Up

The last day of the 2011 General Assembly session is Saturday.  Thank you for your advocacy efforts on behalf of Virginia’s youth throughout the session.  The Don’t Throw Away the Key Campaign was instrumental in bringing attention to the unfairness and ineffectiveness of the transfer system and preventing further erosion of judicial discretion. A very bad bill that would have resulted in hundreds more youth being tried as adults in Virginia was defeated. Two positive bills that would have improved our system for trying youth as adults passed the Senate but were ultimately unable to make it out of the House

Below is an update on the specific bills Don’t Throw Away the Key tracked:

  • SB 914 (McDougle) was defeated in the Senate Courts Committee.  This bill would have made it easier to try more youth as adults in Virginia and further limited judicial discretion over this very important decision.  This bill was recommended by the Virginia State Crime Commission to the General Assembly.  Its defeat is a huge accomplishment and will prevent many youth from entering the adult criminal justice system. Congratulations on this great achievement!
  • SB 822 (Edwards) passed the Senate but was ultimately unable to pass the House Courts Committee. This bill would have given youth the right to appeal a prosecutor’s decision to try them as an adult. Thank you to all of you who supported this bill by making phone calls, sending emails, or attending a hearing. A special thank you to former Director of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice Barry Green for emphatically testifying in support of this bill in the House Courts subcommittee.
  • SB 914 (Howell) passed the Senate unanimously but was pulled by the patron before a vote was taken in the House. This bill would have allowed Circuit Court judges to grant youth a juvenile adjudication upon successful completion of probationary terms set by the judge.  The fact that this bill was not voted down in the House will make it easier to potentially bring it again in the future.
  • HB 1980 (Greason) never received a hearing in the House. This bill would have expanded the categories of automatic transfer and prosecutorial certification by adding conspiracies and attempts to commit the violent juvenile felonies listed within each category.

Thank you for your continued support of these reforms! Be on the lookout for more opportunities to take action in the future!

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There were several successes for youth in the Virginia Senate thanks to everyone who called or emailed Senators and attended committee hearings!

Both bills that could significantly improve Virginia’s system of trying youth as adults passed the Senate.  SB 822 (Edwards) would allow circuit court judges to review a prosecutor’s decision to certify cases to adult court — just as they can now review decisions of juvenile court judges.  SB 948 (Howell) would allow circuit court judges to give youth the opportunity to earn a juvenile delinquency adjudication upon successful completion of terms and conditions set by the judge. These bills will now move to the House of Delegates where the committee process will start over again.  Be on the lookout for opportunities to advocate for the passage of these bills!

In addition to the passage of the two bills above, you prevented the passage of a bill that would have made it easier for youth to be tried as adults and increased the number of youth that would face trial in adult courts and possible adult criminal penalties. SB 914 (McDougle) would have expanded the categories of automatic transfer and prosecutorial certification by adding second or subsequent acts of violence to the list of offenses that may be automatically transferred and by adding gang participation and second or subsequent drug offenses to the list of offenses that may be certified.  Your actions have saved so many of Virginia’s youth!

Thank you for your continued advocacy on behalf of Virginia’s youth! There will be more opportunities to take action in the coming month!

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