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.