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Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Faith and Justice

Faith based organizations are often called upon to support both adults and youth when they return to the community after incarceration.  The support these organizations provide extends far beyond just spiritual guidance and into everyday needs, such as assistance finding work or educational opportunities, obtaining housing, and therapeutic services.  While faith based organizations are adept at facilitating individuals’ return to the community after incarceration, this can be an especially daunting task when it comes to young offenders who received adult felony convictions.

These youth face unnecessary obstacles to rehabilitation and reintegration.  Youth convicted as adults face not only additional but also more serious and longer lasting consequences than their peers who received juvenile adjudications.  These consequences impact a youth’s ability to find employment, educational services, and public assistance, among other things.

In light of these serious consequences and the lasting impact they have on a youth’s ability to become a productive member of society in addition to the special and significant role faith based organizations play in reintegrating formerly incarcerated youth into the community, the Don’t Throw Away the Key Campaign is asking faith based organizations to sign on in support of reforming our system.

By signing the faith based organization sign on letter, your organization will be showing its support for having the best and most experienced decision makers in our juvenile justice system deciding which youth should be tried as adults after a full and fair hearing.  The specific requests for reform are:

  • Grant youth the right to appeal prosecutorial certification decisions. Support Senator Edwards’ SB 205 carried over from the 2010 General Assembly session.  This bill provides youth with a right to appeal to the Circuit Court a prosecutor’s decision to certify the case to Circuit Court OR
  • Grant Circuit Court judges the authority to give juvenile adjudications for transferred/certified youth consistent with the sentences they impose.
  • Oppose measures that would expand the number of youth who are tried as adults. Bills such as SB 389, which increase the number of crimes eligible for transfer to adult court are likely to increase the problems noted above, without making our communities safer.

To include your organization’s name on the sign on letter, please email or call Kate Duvall at kate@justice4all.org or 434-977-0553 ext. 146.

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Don’t Throw Away the Key advocates turned out in large numbers for Wednesday’s meeting of the Virginia State Crime Commission. Thank you to those of you who made it to the meeting!  It was made clear to the members of the Commission that there are many individuals who feel passionately that our system of trying youth as adults needs reform.  The results of the Crime Commission’s study up to this point are available here.  The staff will present their final findings at the December 8th meeting of the Commission. The Commission members will also vote on policy recommendations at that time. So mark your calendars for December 8th at 10 a.m. to be in Richmond!

There was a lively and informative discussion of the issues at the meeting. We would like to specifically thank the individual advocates who spoke in favor of reform.  We would also like to thank the Virginia Bar Association’s Commission on the Needs of Youth and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association for their remarks in support of increased judicial discretion.

The meeting was covered by the Richmond Times Dispatch and the article is available here.

Be on the lookout for future advocacy opportunities from the Don’t Throw Away the Key Campaign!!

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It is hard to believe that the summer is coming to an end and the General Assembly session is right around the corner. To kick start the coming season of advocacy for the Don’t Throw Away the Key Campaign, please join us at the Virginia State Crime Commission on September 8th at 10 a.m. in Richmond.  See the flyer for further details.

This meeting will mark the end of a several years long study of the trial and incarceration of youth as adults in Virginia.  Staff will present the findings of the study and recommendations for legislative change.  Also included in the report may be some recommendation as to two bills from last year’s General Assembly session which were carried over and sent to the Crime Commission for further study. One of these bills, SB 205 sponsored by Senator Edwards, would greatly improve Virginia’s system of trying youth as adults by limiting prosecutorial discretion. However, there is another bill, SB 389 sponsored by Senator McDougle, which would result in more youth being tried as adults for less serious crimes.  There will be an opportunity for public comment after the staff’s presentation. If you are interested in giving public comment, please consider using these talking points as a guide.

Don’t Throw Away the Key advocates have consistently made it clear to the Crime Commission by turning out in large numbers for meetings that our youth matter and that this is an issue that matters.  We must remind them of this again on September 8th!  We need as many folks there as possible. Use this flyer to spread the word.

Also, be on the lookout for other opportunities to advocate and have your voice heard on behalf of Don’t Throw Away the Key!

See you on the 8th!

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On Tuesday, August 10th,  JustChildren and Families & Allies of Virginia’s Youth are sponsoring a community forum focused on the practice of trying and incarcerating youth as adults.  The community forum will take place at the Lebanon Christian Church, 409 Yorktown Road, in Newport News, VA, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

With this forum, we hope to gather the voices of youth and others who have been directly impacted by the juvenile and adult justice systems.  We believe that the stories of the of those who have served or been threatened with adult time for juvenile crimes and their families and friends need to be heard by policy-makers.  Their stories will shed light on aspects of these systems that are working and on those areas that may need improvement.

We encourage everyone to bring their families and friends, and children are welcome.  Refreshments and drinks will be provided.

A copy of the flyer with more information about the event can be found here. Please feel free to print copies and circulate widely!

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On Thursday, July 22nd,  JustChildren and Families & Allies of Virginia’s Youth are sponsoring a community forum focused on the practice of trying and incarcerating youth as adults.  The community forum will take place at the Holy Comforter Episcopal, 4819 Monument Ave., in Richmond, VA, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

With this forum, we hope to gather the voices of youth and others who have been directly impacted by the juvenile and adult justice systems.  We believe that the stories of the of those who have served or been threatened with adult time for juvenile crimes and their families and friends need to be heard by policy-makers.  Their stories will shed light on aspects of these systems that are working and on those areas that may need improvement.

We encourage everyone to bring their families and friends, and children are welcome.  Refreshments and drinks will be provided.

A copy of the flyer with more information about the event can be found here. Please feel free to print copies and circulate widely!

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Get involved in this unique opportunity to advocate for juvenile justice reform. Follow the link below for more information about how your and your faith community can take action:

http://www.umc-gbcs.org/atf/cf/%7B689FEA4C-8849-4C05-A89E-C9BC7FFFF64C%7D/juvenile_justice_packet.pdf

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On August 12th at 6 p.m. at the Library of Virginia, Dwayne Betts will speak about and sign A Question of Freedom:A Memoir of Learning, Survival and Coming of Age in Prison.

Twelve years ago, Dwayne Betts went from being an honor student who had never been in trouble with the law to a convicted felon in three months. At 16 he drove to Fairfax, Virginia, with a group of friends and used a gun to carjack a man sleeping in his car. He was arrested the next day and sentenced as an adult. Dwayne spent eight years in prison, but he would not let it ruin his life. Naturally intelligent, Dwayne spent much of his time reading, working as a law clerk, and teaching himself Spanish. He began writing poetry. After his release he enrolled in Prince George’s Community College, where he subsequently graduated with high honors. He recently graduated from the University of Maryland, where he served as the graduation speaker, and has been awarded the Holden Fellowship, a full tuition scholarship to attend graduate school at Warren Wilson College where he will study poetry. The Washington Post did a feature story titled “From Inmate to Mentor, Through Power of Books”, link is provided to view full story, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/01/AR2006100101160_pf.html. Mr. Betts teaches poetry at several public schools in the DC Metro area and has had his poetry published in many national literary journals.

Congressman Bobby Scott will also make a special appearance at the event to speak about his work in the arena of juvenile justice. A dessert reception will follow the presentation.

The event is free and open to the public.  Youth are encouraged to attend.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Time: 6:00 PM–8:00 PM
The Library of Virginia
800 E. Broad St.
Richmond, VA 2321
http://www.rdwaynebetts.com/

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