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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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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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The Washington Post editorializes today about the importance of reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act:

Jailing Juveniles – Sensible fixes to youth crime and delinquency policies, Washington Post, December 14, 2009.

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Virginia Crime Commission News

On Tuesday evening, the agenda for the December 15th meeting of the Virginia State Crime Commission was made public (http://vscc.virginia.gov/December152009.html).  I am saddened to share with you that the Crime Commission has decided to study the issue of juvenile transfer for another year rather than make recommendations for legislation this year.  The Commission feels that more data about this practice and the youth who are being transferred is necessary before moving forward with legislation.

While this is disappointing news, it is not a loss or the end.  We believe that more data will further highlight the problems with Virginia’s transfer system making the need for change even more apparent.  A year of 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.

WE MUST REMAIN VIGILANT AND PROACTIVE! Transfer will be addressed, albeit briefly, at the hearing and opportunity for public comment will be very limited.  We understand if you choose not to attend the meeting because of this change in the agenda. However, it is still important to attend the Crime Commission hearing on December 15th at 10 a.m.  so that the members of the Commission understand that this is an important issue and we remain committed to the cause.

We are planning a press conference to begin at 11:30 a.m. This will give those of you who support the Don’t Throw Away the Key Campaign and want an opportunity to express your support the chance to speak with the press.  If you would like to speak, please contact Grace Bauer at gbauer@cfyj.org or (443) 418-5201.

Please also plan on joining us for lunch and a planning session on next steps.  We need to keep the momentum that this Campaign has gathered up over the next year and can only do this with your help. Lunch will follow the press conference (starting around 12:30 p.m.) and will be held at 626 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23219-1890.  If you plan to come to lunch, please respond to this email or call Kate Duvall at 434-977-0553 ext. 146.

If you choose not to make the trip to Richmond this time, please be on the lookout for further news from the Don’t Throw Away the Key Campaign.

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