In my last Director's Message, I reported that two residents of Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center had escaped the facility in the early morning hours of Monday, July 13. In addition, two Bon Air employees were subsequently arrested for their alleged involvement in the escape. I am pleased to report that the escapees were captured July 25 and returned to justice. First and foremost, we wish to thank the Virginia State Police, the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, the Michigan Law Enforcement agencies and all who were involved in the safe apprehension of the two individuals who escaped. We also continue to cooperate fully with the Virginia State Police in their ongoing investigation in connection with this incident. All of the dedicated professionals committed to the rehabilitation of the youth in our care at Bon Air join me in hoping that investigators will get to the bottom of this incident so that appropriate action may be taken, and all those involved will be held accountable. The two individuals charged with acts that compromised the well-being of other employees as well as the public at large are not representative of the Bon Air team, and are no longer employed by the agency.
I have ordered a complete security analysis of the Bon Air campus in the wake of the escapes. Our DJJ investigators and Residential Services management team are conducting internal reviews, and I am bringing in an external team to conduct an independent analysis to augment our findings. We are committed to determine if more immediate security enhancements are needed at Bon Air. Bon Air is an old campus, and this incident highlights the need for a more modern state-of-the-art treatment and secure facility. Prior to this incident, we had not had an escape in over 20 years. It is extremely important to us to continue to be a good neighbor to the Bon Air community as we fulfill our role in public safety.
It is with great disappointment that I share with you that two residents of Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center escaped the facility in the early morning hours of Monday, July 13. The preliminary investigation has revealed that the residents overpowered and assaulted a resident specialist. Upon taking his keys, they were able to exit the unit, cut a hole in a perimeter fence and flee in an awaiting car. While this is extremely troubling, over the next 48 hours, two Bon Air employees were subsequently arrested for their alleged involvement in the escape. These arrests are deeply disturbing; however, we hope that this leads to the swift apprehension of the fugitives.
Bon Air is staffed by a group of dedicated professionals committed to the rehabilitation of the youth in our care. The two individuals charged with acts that compromised the well-being of other employees as well as the public at large are not representative of the Bon Air team, and are no longer employed by the agency. The goal of the ongoing criminal and internal investigations is to get to the bottom of this incident and hold all who have been involved accountable for any inappropriate actions.
In addition, I am launching a full security analysis of the campus. The DJJ Residential Services Management Team is conducting an analysis, and I will be bringing in an external team to conduct a complete security analysis to augment our findings. Bon Air is an old campus and DJJ had been working for years to replace it with a more modern facility with state-of-the-art security and treatment design components. While those efforts are ongoing, we are committed to determine if security enhancements are needed.
This is the first escape from Bon Air in over 20 years and we want to continue to be a good neighbor as we fulfill our role in public safety. If anyone has information regarding this matter, we ask you to contact the Virginia State Police, who are leading the investigation, or your local law enforcement agency. If anyone is in communication with the individuals, we ask that they be advised to make arrangements to safely turn themselves in. We hope for a safe and peaceful resolution to this most unfortunate situation.
We continue to find ourselves in interesting and challenging times. Please visit our COVID-19 webpage for updates on the coronavirus. I am pleased to report that there have been no positive COVID-19 tests for Bon Air or other DJJ direct care youth in nearly six weeks. We continue to monitor the health and well-being of all employees and youth. With this writing, I want to focus more of our attention on other pressing matters: race, reconciliation and equity.
DJJ is an agency comprised of a diverse team of committed individuals charged with serving a diverse population of youth and families across the Commonwealth. As we battle the current health crisis along with the rest of the country, we also now find ourselves battling two other crises simultaneously, an economic one and a social justice one. The latter, in some ways, represents another pandemic occurring alongside the coronavirus at nearly the same rate and global span. Communities across the world have been rattled by the recent deaths of several unarmed Black citizens in America. The deaths of George Floyd, Breyonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have brought renewed attention to years of racially motivated mistreatment of Black people in America. We have all witnessed during the past two weeks a groundswell of support in calling for justice. For the most part, this has been displayed through peaceful protests that have spread like wildfire. In a few situations the protests have turned violent. However, to a greater degree, we have witnessed the true purpose of seeking fairness, justice and humanity.
While we may not like to acknowledge or discuss it, racism has existed in our communities and manifested itself in numerous ways for generations. There have been multiple efforts to address problems brought on by racist attitudes and actions. This time, Black people have been joined by a rainbow of diverse individuals and groups (from across the U.S. and the world), offering support to a greater extent than previously seen. DJJ employees along with the youth and families that we serve have been touched, in some way, by this crisis. The troubling events have been traumatic for many, and let us not forget that many of our youth have already experienced a number of adverse childhood experiences. DJJ is beginning conversations about the issues at hand.
DJJ has identified issues of racial disparity and equity over the years and to a greater degree through various aspects of our transformation efforts that began in 2014. We have made progress as a system; however, we recognize that Black and Brown youth are still overrepresented at every decision point in the juvenile justice system. The percentages of disparity vary from the point of arrest, diversion, petition, adjudication, disposition and commitment. For the most part, the deeper a young person penetrates the system, the greater the disparities. That said, DJJ is trying to hit the issue head on, in part, by first acknowledging that the disparities do exist. Please take a look at the data in our most recent and prior Data Resource Guides (with links posted on our webpage) to better understand the concern as well as the progress made. We have implemented processes to remove subjectivity; we are implementing an equity work plan which includes the creation of an equity work group; we are tracking the data and outcomes; however, we still have much to do.
The events of the past few weeks have pushed us to recommit to our efforts to seek new and more impactful ways to tackle the issues of equity across our system. We want to be intentional in all that we do. We don’t want to do this alone. We are appealing to all stakeholders: parents, community partners, advocates, providers, the judiciary, law enforcement, other child-serving agencies, and all who care about the youth we serve. Not only do we want to change the trajectory of those we serve but those whom we can collectively prevent from ever touching the juvenile justice system. We ask that you join with us in our effort down the path to solutions which we hope will contribute to the long-term healing that is so desperately needed across our communities.
I am sharing with you, through the attached links, messages shared with DJJ employees over the past two weeks as we refocus our energies in these areas. I urge you to join us in this fight for equitable treatment of Black and Brown youth and also to help us find solutions within communities across the Commonwealth to address the needs of all youth. As I have asked the DJJ team, I invite you to send concrete ideas and suggestions to our Equity Work Group at firstname.lastname@example.org for compilation and future discussions.
It is difficult to not be touched by the footage of the death of George Floyd as we heard the “I can’t breathe” cry. As a result, a cry to dismantle racism that has been prevalent across some communities for generations has now been joined by a louder chorus of cries, a wailing of sorts. Thousands of individuals have put themselves at risk of the virus by joining a cause that has challenged the moral compass of many. We have heard the cries inside and outside of DJJ.
Again, we are seeking ways to advance the dialogue with courageous conversations along with actions that bring forth solutions. We seek a more clear vision to truth and reconciliation. I thank you in advance for your support and participation as we move forward together.
Help us achieve 20/20 vision in 2020.
Continuamos a encontrarnos in tiempos interesantes y retadores. Por favor visita nuestra página del web COVID-19 para más actualizaciones con respecto al coronavirus. Me complace informarles que no ha habido ningún residente que ha dado positivo al COVID-19 en Bon Air ni en otros centros de atención directa para jóvenes de DJJ en casi seis semanas. Continuamos monitoreando la salud y el bienestar de todos los empleados y jóvenes. Con este escrito, quisiera centrar nuestra atención a otros asuntos apremiantes: raza, reconciliación, y equidad.
DJJ es una agencia compuesta por un equipo diverso de personas comprometidas encargadas de servir una población diversa de jóvenes y familias en todo el Commonwealth. Mientras luchamos contra la crisis de salud de hoy en día junto con el resto del país, ahora nos encontramos luchando contra otras dos crisis simultáneamente, una económica y una de justicia social. El ultimo, en siertas maneras, representa otra pandemia que ocurre junto al coronavirus a casi la misma velocidad y alcance global. Comunidades mundiales han sido sacudidas por las muertes recientes de varios ciudadanos negros inerme en los Estados Unidos. Las muertes de George Floyd, Breyonna Taylor, y Ahmaud Arbery han atraído una atención renovada a los años del maltrato racialmente motivados de personas negras en Estados Unidos. Todos hemos presenciado durante las últimas dos semanas una oleada de apoyo para pedir justicia. En su mayor parte, esto se ha demostrado a través de protestas pacíficas que se han extendido como un incendio forestal. En algunas situaciones Las protestas se han vuelto violentas. Sin embargo, en mayor medida, hemos sido testigos del verdadero propósito de buscar la equidad, la justicia y la humanidad.
Aunque no nos guste reconocerlo o debatirlo, el racismo ha existido en nuestras comunidades y se ha manifestado de muchísimas maneras para las generaciones. Se han realizado muchos esfuerzos para abordar los problemas provocados por las actitudes y acciones racistas. Esta vez, a los negros se les ha unido un arco iris de individuos diversos y grupos (a través de los Estados Unidos y el mundo), que ofrecen un apoyo en mayor medida de lo que se ha visto anteriormente. Los empleados de DJJ junto con los jóvenes y las familias a las que servimos se han visto afectados, de alguna manera, por esta crisis. Los eventos problemáticos han sido traumáticos para muchos, y no olvidemos que muchos de nuestros jóvenes ya han una serie de experiencias adversas durante su infancia. DJJ está iniciando conversaciones sobre los temas en cuestión.
DJJ ha identificado problemas de disparidad racial y equidad a lo largo de los años y en mayor medida a través de varios aspectos de nuestros esfuerzos de transformación que comenzaron en 2014. Hemos progresado como sistema; sin embargo, reconocemos que los jóvenes negros y marrones todavía están sobrerrepresentados en cada punto de decisión en el sistema de justicia juvenil. Los porcentajes de disparidad cambian desde el punto de arresto, desvío legal, la petición, la adjudicación, la disposición y el compromiso. En su mayor parte, cuanto más penetra una persona joven en el sistema, mayores son las disparidades. DJJ está tratando de abordar el problema de frente, en parte, al reconocer primero que las disparidades existen. Miren a los datos en nuestras Guías de recursos (Data Resource Guides) de datos más recientes y anteriores (con enlaces publicados en nuestra página web) para comprender mejor la preocupación y el progreso realizado. Hemos implementado procesos para eliminar la subjetividad; estamos implementando un plan de trabajo de equidad que incluye la creación de un grupo de trabajo de equidad; estamos rastreando los datos y resultados; Sin embargo, todavía tenemos mucho que hacer.
Los eventos de las últimas semanas nos han empujado a volver a comprometernos en nuestros esfuerzos para buscar formas nuevas y más impactantes de abordar los problemas de equidad en nuestro sistema. Queremos ser intencionales en todo lo que hacemos. No queremos hacer esto solos. Estamos conmoviendo a todas las partes interesadas: padres, socios de la comunidad, defensores, proveedores, el poder judicial, las fuerzas del orden público, otras agencias que sirven a los niños y todos los que se preocupan por los jóvenes a los que servimos. No solo queremos cambiar la trayectoria de aquellos a quienes servimos, sino de aquellos a quienes colectivamente podemos evitar que toquen el sistema de justicia juvenil. Les pedimos que se unan a nosotros en nuestros esfuerzos en el camino hacia soluciones que esperamos contribuyan a la curación a largo plazo que tan desesperadamente se necesita en nuestras comunidades.
Estoy compartiendo con ustedes, a través de los enlaces adjuntos, mensajes compartidos con empleados de DJJ durante las últimas dos semanas a medida que reenfocamos nuestras energías en estas áreas. Les insto a unirse a nosotros en esta lucha por el trato equitativo de los jóvenes negros y marrones y también para ayudarnos a encontrar soluciones dentro de comunidades en todo el Commonwealth para abordar las necesidades de toda la juventud. Como le he pedido al equipo de DJJ, los invito a que envían ideas y sugerencias concretas a nuestro Grupo de Trabajo de Equidad en email@example.com para la compilación y futuras discusiones.
Es difícil no ser tocado por las imágenes de la muerte de George Floyd cuando escuchamos el grito "No puedo respirar". Como resultado, un grito para desmantelar el racismo que ha prevalecido en algunas comunidades durante generaciones se ha unido a un coro más fuerte de gritos, una especie de lamentos. Miles de personas se han puesto en riesgo del virus al unirse a una causa que ha desafiado la brújula moral de muchos. Hemos escuchado los gritos dentro y fuera de DJJ.
Nuevamente, estamos buscando formas de avanzar en el diálogo con conversaciones valientes junto con acciones que aporten soluciones. Buscamos una visión más clara de la verdad y la reconciliación. Les agradezco de antemano su apoyo y participación a medida que avanzamos juntos.
Ayúdanos a lograr Visión 20/20 en 2020.
It’s been five weeks since DJJ first implemented a two-week quarantine to get a handle on the spread of the COVID-19 virus among our residents, as I described in my last message. During that time, thanks to an aggressive testing protocol in which we tested each youth who showed any symptoms or even a slightly elevated temperature of 99°F, 26 youth tested positive. Most of these residents would not have been tested in the community. While this was concerning to all of us, these aggressive steps have helped significantly in our efforts to keep our residents healthy. I’m pleased to report that since that time, only three additional residents have tested positive; and all that have tested positive have recovered, with no residents with an active case currently in our infirmary. Nearly all of those who tested positive never showed any outward symptoms; the others exhibited only very mild symptoms.
We have significantly lowered the number of positive tests because of the aggressive testing, and continue to test youth every day, as warranted. To date, we have tested well over 100 youth. While today’s results of no COVID 19 positive youth in treatment are promising, the Virginia Department of Health has told us that it may take some time to totally eliminate it on campus, just as it is difficult to eliminate in the community.
At the end of the initial quarantine period, outside contractors came in and sanitized the facility living units. This involved moving staff and residents from the living area, spraying all surfaces with a disinfectant, and then bringing back staff and residents when it was safe to do so. This sanitizing, combined with the slowing spread of the virus, has allowed us to begin easing quarantine restrictions across campus. We are doing this based upon guidance from medical professionals. While things are not back to “normal,” restrictions have been eased, and residents are enjoying more time out of their rooms while still being directed to maintain social distancing, wash their hands regularly, and practice healthy habits. Each unit is cleaned daily; youth and staff continue to wear protective masks.
We are slowly bringing back more of our normal programming, all the while following the lead and advice of the Virginia Department of Health and our Governor’s direction. Our Division of Education is starting to use the computer-based Edgenuity program in the living units, in addition to the individual paper learning packets. Group-based treatment programs also are easing back. Groups will meet in smaller settings to help with social distancing. During an update I provided to Bon Air’s student government leaders last week, they shared some valuable insights into what will help them get back to more normal activities. We will make every effort to implement their suggestions.
Our residents frequently talk with parents and loved ones by telephone. We are exploring more ways to expand our communication methods. I’m pleased to announce that we will soon host a virtual Bon Air Parent Town Hall meeting, which will provide an opportunity for DJJ managers to answer questions posed by parents. Invitations are being sent out for this meeting, which is open to parents, guardians and assigned DJJ staff only.
Many have suggested that DJJ lower the population of youth in secure facilities during the COVID-19 crisis. While DJJ does not control the release for a large number of youth, we do acknowledge that social distancing is challenging in a correctional setting. We have taken measures since March to review the continued placement of youth across our continuum of residential settings. Court Service Units have worked with court partners and reduced the numbers of youth in secure detention awaiting a hearing by nearly 200. DJJ has been working to release committed residents, where appropriate, while always keeping public safety at the forefront. DJJ looks at the individual circumstances of each resident before making the decision for early release. Considerations include the severity of the youth’s offense and whether the youth might pose a current threat to public safety if released; whether the youth has a family to return to; whether the youth has a solid reentry plan; whether the youth has completed treatment or treatment needs can be met in the community; and whether the youth and family are healthy. DJJ continues to review all cases in direct care for possible release. We had a few youth admitted during the early weeks; however, since March 11, we have safely reduced the number of residents by 55 youth -- more than 15% of the population.
As always, safety to the community and the health and safety of each resident and employee remains DJJ’s top priority. We will continue to regularly report the steps that we are taking in response to COVID-19.
Han pasado cinco semanas desde que DJJ implemento las dos semanas de cuarentena para poder controlar la propagación del Virus Covid 19 entre nuestra facultad y residentes. Gracias a nuestro protocolo agresivo en administración de pruebas a nuestros jóvenes, que demostraron algún síntoma y/o fiebre elevada de 99°F solo hubieron 26 que arrojaron positivo. La mayoría de los resientes no hubiesen sido examinados en la comunidad. Mientras entendemos que esto es preocupante para todos, los pasos agresivos que tomamos han ayudado significativamente a nuestro esfuerzo de mantener a la facultad y los residentes saludables. Me agrada poder reportar que durante esas semanas solo tres residentes adicionales han dado positivo, la totalidad de jóvenes contagiados se ha recuperado favorable y actualmente no tenemos ningún caso activo en nuestra enfermería. Casi todos que arrojaron positivo a la prueba nunca tuvieron síntomas y los demás sintieron síntomas muy leves.
Hemos significativamente logrado bajar los números positivos de contagio gracias a la rapidez y agresividad de los exámenes realizados. Ha la fecha de hoy hemos podido examinar a sobre 100 jóvenes. Aunque al momento los resultados recibidos hoy indican que no tenemos Casos Positivos de Covid -19 en nuestros jóvenes es alentador, el departamento de Salud de Virginia nos comunicó que aun tomaría tiempo el poder eliminar el virus completamente en el campus al igual que en nuestra comunidad.
Al final del tiempo inicial de cuarentena, se contrató un equipo de limpieza de afuera para limpiar y desinfectar el área de vivienda de la facilidad. El hacer esto tomo mover nuestros residentes y personal fuera del área mientras los profesionales de limpieza limpiaron todas las superficies del área con desinfectante. En cuanto terminaron y nos indicaron que era seguro se trajo de vuelta a los residentes y personal del área.
Esta limpieza desinfectante en combinación con la baja en contagios del virus nos ha permitido flexibilizar la cuarentena a través del campus.
Mientras todo empieza a volver a su “normalidad” y las restricciones han sido flexibilizados los jóvenes están disfrutando más tiempo fuera de sus cuartos, mientras seguimos con la directriz y consejo de mantener distancia social, lavarse las manos con regularidad y la práctica de hábitos saludables. El distanciamiento social continúa siendo un reto para ellos por lo cual requiere recordatorios diarios. Diariamente se limpian todas las unidades, y los jóvenes al igual que los empleados continúan con su uso de mascarillas.
Poco a poco nos encontramos añadiendo más de nuestra programación regular, mientras continuamos siguiendo las recomendaciones del departamento de salud de virginia y la dirección de nuestro Gobernador. Nuestra división de educación se encuentra instalando el programa EDgenuity a las computadoras que se encuentran en las unidades de vivienda, en adición a los paquetes educativos individuales. Por igual nos encontramos en proceso de volver a implementar algunos de nuestros tratamientos grupales. Para continuar con el distanciamiento social las terapias grupales serán trabajadas en un espacio pequeño. Durante una actualización que se les brindo la semana pasada a los líderes estudiantiles del gobierno, recibí sugerencias muy valiosas sobre el cómo ayudar a los jóvenes poder retomar actividades más normales y estamos trabajando para poder así implementar sus recomendaciones.
Nuestros residentes se encuentran con frecuencia hablando vía teléfono con sus seres queridos. Continuamos explorando medidas para poder expandir nuestros métodos de comunicación. Me alegra reportar que pronto estaremos ofreciendo una reunión virtual para padres, que proveerá una oportunidad a los gerentes de DJJ poder contestar preguntas y dudas de los padres. Ya las invitaciones están siendo enviadas. Dicha reunión esta abierta a los padres, guardianes y a la facultad de DJJ solamente.
Muchos nos han sugerido que DJJ baje la populación de los jóvenes en facilidades seguras durante la Pandemia del Covid -19. Aunque en DJJ no tenemos control de poder dar el alta a grandes cantidades de jóvenes entendemos que el distanciamiento social es difícil mantener en un centro correccional. Desde marzo hemos estado tomado las medidas de repasar el como colocar a nuestros jóvenes a través de nuestras facilidades residenciales. Unidades de Servicio de la corte han trabajado con nuestros compañeros de la corte para reducir los números de jóvenes en detención segura que esperan juicio a casi 200. DJJ se encuentra trabajando para poder liberar a nuestros residentes cometidos, donde sea apropiado y siempre mantenido la seguridad del publico primero. DJJ se fija en las circunstancias individuales de cada residente antes de tomar la decisión de brindarles la libertad temprana. Las consideraciones incluyen: la severidad del delito cometido por el joven , la amenaza que posee a la salud pública, estabilidad familiar a la cual regresar, que tenga un plan de reingreso sólido, que el joven haya completo el tratamiento o que su plan de tratamiento pueda ser continuado en la comunidad y que su familia al igual que él se encuentren saludables.
DJJ continúa evaluando todos los casos, pero desde el 11 de marzo hemos reducido los números de residentes por 55- mas de el 15% de la populación.
Como siempre, Nuestra prioridad y compromiso es hacia la seguridad de la comunidad y la salud de cada uno de nuestros residentes y empleados. Continuaremos ofreciéndoles con regularidad los pasos que tomemos en respuesta a la pandemia del Covid -19.
Les deseamos como siempre que se mantengan bien y con excelente salud.
This is day 44 since Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia because of the COVID 19 virus. This has been an eventful time filled (in part) with fear, anxiety and uncertainty among many of us.
Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to every person working for DJJ in these unprecedented times. I could not be more proud, or more humbled, to be leading this agency. Every day our DJJ team members are going above and beyond to ensure the health and safety of our staff, youth, and families.
I shared in my last message of April 13 that the numbers of COVID 19 positive youth had increased at Bon Air. I later advised in an April 17 press release that the numbers had risen to 25 youth. As of today, we have had only one additional youth receive a positive test (April 19) for COVID 19 since that date. As more results have been reported, DJJ COVID 19 positive tests among staff numbers have increased to 10 staff with eight remaining out of work under medical care and two having returned to work. We are pleased about the speedy recovery of the youth and staff who are back, and wish for an equally swift recovery for the others.
I’m sure we can all honestly say that we’ve never experienced an event with such a drastic impact on how we live and work as the COVID 19 pandemic. Now more than ever, we must do the right things and be prepared to take steps beyond what we typically do. This has meant making hard decisions.
DJJ embarked on a vigorous effort to determine the prevalence of COVID 19 on the Bon Air campus following the first youth testing positive for the virus on April 5. These efforts were not taken lightly and were implemented following consultation with and support from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). We placed affected youth in medical quarantine, conducted temperature checks of the residents twice per day and COVID 19 testing of all youth with an elevated temperature of 99 F or greater. A fever is defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a temperature of at least 100.3; however, VDH agreed to test our residents at the lower elevated temperature, which proved quite beneficial. While some might see these efforts as drastic, it has allowed DJJ to determine the extent of spread for the virus and direct additional attention to the living areas of the youth affected in our efforts to slow the spread.
Moving from one to 26 positive cases among our young people was concerning to all in DJJ. Of those testing positive thus far, all but one live in four of our 14 housing units. The fact that we have not had any new cases this week is promising and clearly demonstrates a slowing of the spread over the past two weeks. However, VDH has cautioned us that the campus may still experience spread and our focus needs to continue to be on mitigating or slowing the process.
Currently, there are only three active COVID-19 cases at Bon Air. Twenty-three of the residents are no longer in medical isolation and are considered recovered per VDH guidelines. I should also note that only four of the 26 youth had any visible symptoms of illness. Almost all youth were asymptomatic (without symptoms) within 24-48 hours without any elevated temperatures or other symptoms.
DJJ continues to work closely with VDH throughout the crisis. Our medical team checks temperatures twice daily and have tested 93 youth to date. We have been advised that it is not medically warranted to test all youth, though we have asked. There is a shortage of testing kits around the state and without any symptoms, testing has not been approved.
DJJ continues to review all secure care placements. CSU staff carefully review detention decisions in the localities and recommend alternative to detention where appropriate. They have successfully worked with the prosecutors, defense attorneys to reduce the local detention population from 550 on March 12 to 358 on April 24. The Residential Team continues to review all youth in Bon Air and alternative residential settings for possible release. Thirty-eight youth have been released across the continuum since March 11. Nineteen youth have been released from Bon Air thus far since March 11. DJJ has reduced its total committed population by more than 10%.
DJJ continues to wish you all well during the continued pandemic. The well-being of our staff and youth remains our paramount concern. We will continue to provide you periodic updates regarding the status of operations and the well-being of all.
Valerie Boykin, Director
Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice
Nos encontramos en el día 44 desde que el Gobernador Ralph Northam declaró en emergencia al estado de Virginia a causa del virus COVID-19. Para muchos de nosotros, este tiempo ha sido uno en parte lleno de miedo, ansiedad, e incertidumbre.
Deseo comenzar este comunicado expresando mi más sincero agradecimiento a cada uno de las personas trabajando para DJJ en este tiempo que no tiene precedente. No podría sentir más humildad ni más orgullo de estar dirigiendo esta agencia. Día a día los miembros de nuestro equipo en DJJ se encuentran trabajando arduamente para salvaguardar la salud y seguridad de nuestros empleados, jóvenes, y familias.
El 13 de abril, en mi último mensaje, les compartí que el número de jóvenes positivos al COVID-19 había incrementado en Bon Air. Luego, el 17 de abril, en un comunicado de prensa se les indico que el número de casos positivos subió a 25. Al día de hoy solo tenemos un caso nuevo de un joven positive (19 de abril) al COVID-19. Mientras los casos de COVID-19 continúan elevándose, DJJ ha reportado 10 casos positivos perteneciendo a empleados con 8 de ellos actualmente fuera de su trabajo y dos regresando ya a su trabajo presencial. Nos encontramos satisfechos por la rápido recuperación de nuestros jóvenes y empleados y le deseamos lo mismo a los demás contagiados.
Con toda honestidad todos podríamos decir que nunca hemos experimentado un evento tan drástico con un impacto directo a como trabajamos y vivimos. Durante este evento deberíamos considerar tomar mejores medidas y decisiones para poder así combatir el COVID-19. Esto significa tomar medidas arduas y contingentes.
Desde que se recibió la primera prueba positiva al COVID-19 el pasado 5 de abril, DJJ se ha embarcado en un vigoroso esfuerzo para determinar la prevalencia del mismo en el campus de Bon Air. Estos esfuerzos no se han tomado a la ligera y fueron implementado luego de haber consultado y contado con el apoyo del departamento de salud del estado de Virginia (VDH). Los jóvenes afectados al virus fueron puestos en aislamiento médico, sus temperaturas fueron verificadas dos veces al día, mas la prueba del COVID-19 fue administrada a todos los jóvenes con temperatura de 99F o mayor. El Centro Para El Control y Prevención De Enfermedades (CDC), define la fiebre como una temperatura de 100.3 o mayor; sin embargo, el departamento de salud de Virginia (VDH) aprobó la toma de temperaturas de nuestros residentes a una temperatura más baja, de lo cual se determinó beneficioso. Aunque algunos determinen estos esfuerzos como unos drásticos, esto ha permitido a DJJ poder determinar la rapidez de la propagación del virus y poder enfocarnos directamente en las áreas afectadas por jóvenes infectados para así detener la rapidez de su contagio.
El ir de una a 26 casos positivos en nuestros residentes concernió a todos en DJJ. De los arrojados positivos todos menos uno reside en 4 de nuestras 14 unidades de vivienda. El que no hayamos tenido ningún caso nuevo positivo esta semana se nos hace alentador y demuestra que hemos estado bajando la velocidad del contagio durante las últimas dos semanas. El departamento de salud del estado de Virginia (VDH) nos ha indicado que debemos continuar implementando los esfuerzos asignados para así poder mitigar el proceso de contagio.
Actualmente tenemos tres casos activos positivos, del COVID-19 in Bon Air. Veintitrés de los residentes ya han sido dado de alta de aislamiento médico y según las guías medicas del departamento de salud del estado de Virginia (VDH), se consideran recuperados. Dicho eso, solamente cuatro de los veintiséis sostuvieron síntomas visibles del virus. La mayoría de los jóvenes se mantuvieron asintomáticos (sin síntomas) y sin temperaturas elevadas durante 24-48 horas de su diagnóstico.
DJJ continúa trabajando directamente con el VDH atreves de esta crisis. Nuestro equipo médico tomo las temperaturas dos veces al día y hasta ahora les han hecho pruebas a 93 jóvenes. Aunque hemos preguntado, nos han dicho que medicamente no se debe hacer la prueba a todos los jóvenes, ya que no hay suficiente “kits” de pruebas atreves del estado si no tiene síntomas, la prueba no es aprobada.
DJJ continúa evaluando las medidas de seguridad de vivienda. Por igual el equipo de CSU se encuentran evaluando decisiones sobre alternativas de viviendas apropiadas. Ellos han trabajado efectivamente con la fiscalía, y con sus abogados de defensa para reducir la populación de detención local de 550 el 12 de marzo a 358 el 24 de abril. Nuestro equipo de residentes continúa revisando a todos los jóvenes de Bon Air al igual que alternativas de viviendo para posible desplazamiento. Desde el 11 de marzo treinta ocho jóvenes han sido puestos en libertad. De los treinta-ocho, diecinueve jóvenes han salido de Bon Air. Por ende, DJJ ha reducido su población restringido por más del 10%.
DJJ continúa deseándoles que se mantengan en buena salud durante esta pandemia. El bienestar de nuestro equipo y jóvenes continúa siendo nuestra prioridad. Continuaremos proveyendo actualizaciones de las operaciones y el bien estar de nuestro personal y de nuestros jóvenes.
Valerie Boykin, Director
Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice
At this writing, it has been one month since Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia as a result of the COVID 19 virus. Much has happened across our state, our country and the world as we battle this crisis. I write today to let you know that DJJ remains strong and we are forging through this, though we have been touched by impacts from the virus like most.
I wrote in late March to provide an update on DJJ’s plans as we entered into the COVID 19 crisis and we have provided periodic updates on our dedicated COVID 19 web page and through press releases. The past few weeks have certainly been more challenging than any of us could have imagined. We salute the parents and stakeholders who have worked with us as we had to suspend visitation and volunteer programs and get creative with our provider network to continue needed services to youth and families.
As reported in earlier updates on our website’s dedicated COVID 19 page, the virus has touched members of our DJJ community directly. DJJ staff, contracted staff, and youth in our care involved with a few programs have been diagnosed with COVID 19. Those early numbers have grown a bit but all have been reported to be mild cases with speedy recoveries.
DJJ is following the lead of other child serving agencies and is not publicly releasing specific information on those impacted youth or staff including specific locations in an effort to ensure the confidentiality of youth information. This is especially important since many of these programs are in small settings, or present opportunities for the youth to be more easily identified. Impacted staff, youth and families are notified per Virginia Department of Health (VDH) guidelines.
DJJ has been working closely with VDH throughout the crisis. They have provided training and technical assistance on specific situations since early March. Their guidance has been invaluable over the last few weeks as we have refined our protocols. As reported earlier, we continue to screen all Bon Air staff who enter the facility including daily temperature checks. Entry is denied with a referral to see a medical doctor for anyone who has an elevated temperature. All staff and youth have been issued cloth masks and all medical and some additional staff use full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when in close proximity to residents. We are now checking the temperatures of all residents twice daily. The VDH has reported that allergy symptoms or a slightly elevated fever may be a symptom for COVID 19 so per their guidance, we now test all youth with even mildly elevated temperatures. Medical isolation has been used, as instructed by VDH, where warranted for quarantine or treatment. In all sites, efforts are made to social distance to the extent possible to mitigate possible exposure.
DJJ shares the concerns, as expressed by some stakeholders, about the challenges posed when confining youth in close quarters during this crisis. We are working across all DJJ divisions to look at the numbers of youth entering or remaining in custody. DJJ probation officers screen intake complaints very carefully to look for diversion opportunities or alternatives to detention, when petitions are warranted. There has been some success with requesting the judicial release of detained youth. DJJ’s numbers of committed youth are at an all-time low, having had 850 youth in direct care in FY 2010 and only 350 at the end of FY 2019. Today we have 325 youth in direct care. More than 60 percent of them are serving a determinate commitment which means only the judge can release them. DJJ is looking at all indeterminately committed youth and giving consideration to an early release based on treatment completion, public safety risk to the community, continuing treatment options in the community and reentry plans. DJJ safely released 22 youth in March and is currently reviewing over 25 additional youth across the continuum. We will continue to review the cases of committed youth including determinately committed serious offenders on a case-by-case basis.
Our community-based staff in the court service units continue to provide services to the extent possible. Some core services such as emergency intakes, including protective orders and emergency custody petitions are mandated by Virginia Code and essential to the limited court operation. Probation and parole staff use a number or social distancing techniques to stay in touch with customers. Providers are using tele-medicine techniques, video conferencing and other technology tools to stay connected and provide services and treatment while ensuring social distancing.
DJJ staff across all divisions have learned to telework and practice social distancing. We salute staff who continue to work hard given these challenging times. We thank you all for your support and look forward to getting back to a time that looks and feels a little more like normal.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led us all into uncharted territory. Governor Ralph Northam has taken a number of steps to combat the spread of the virus including the closing of all schools for the remainder of the school year, closing non-essential businesses and limiting gatherings to 10 or less individuals in one space.
DJJ is pressing on. We had been preparing for the coronavirus prior to the outbreak in Virginia, and we are now responding to rapidly changing circumstances as they unfold. We continue to monitor updates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) while maintaining close contact with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). In addition to an earlier message we posted March 17, we created a dedicated COVID-19 resource page that can be accessed at http://www.djj.virginia.gov/pages/about-djj/covid.htm. This message, provided to all stakeholders, expands upon the earlier message making you aware of the actions the agency has taken and the issues that we are addressing.
Our priority, across the agency, is the health and well-being of our youth, families, colleagues, and communities. To date, we are happy to report that no youth or employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19; however, we are aware of community spread in many pockets of the Commonwealth and the ongoing challenges this presents.
DJJ developed a staged approach to implementing precautions for youth, families and employees. Contingency plans have been developed across operational sites. Many of our functions and units cannot be totally shut down; however, DJJ has adopted practices to implement teleworking and social distancing. Our goal is to be socially responsible by minimizing the number of people interacting in our offices as much as possible, while still accomplishing the functions of the agency. Some of the divisional highlights are noted below:
We thank all families and stakeholders who are collaborating with us during these challenging times. We appreciate all who have reached out to offer support as well as those who have sent questions and / or suggestions. Our administrators are working tirelessly around the clock to address issues as they arise. Together we can make it through this situation. I continue to wish you well and invite you to check into our resource page for updates http://www.djj.virginia.gov/pages/about-djj/covid.htm.
The COVID 19 Emergency has created challenging times for us all! DJJ has been preparing for and closely monitoring the situation for the past few weeks. Circumstances have been quite fluid with things changing rapidly across the state. This message is provided to update all stakeholders on the actions the agency has taken so far, as well as what to expect in the coming weeks. Focusing on the health and well-being of our youth, families, colleagues, and communities, is a priority and we are adapting our practices to implement social distancing. As you are aware, Governor Ralph Northam has taken a number of steps to combat the spread including the closing of all schools for two weeks and limiting gatherings to 10 or less individuals in one space. We are also monitoring updates from the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to inform our ongoing planning.
DJJ is taking a staged approach to implementing precautions for youth, families and staff. Contingency Plans have been developed across operational sites and are ever changing. The plans address our responses to the pandemic as it becomes increasingly more serious. Due to the nature of the work we do, some of our operations cannot be shut down. Last week, we made the difficult decision to suspend visitation at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in an effort to practice social distancing. This was especially disappointing news for our residents and their loved ones on whom they depend for visits, but this was deemed best by health organizations as the spread of the virus seems to be increasing rapidly. I have asked Bon Air staff to allow youth opportunities to check in with their families as often as possible via telephone.
The Yvonne B. Miller High School at Bon Air will be closed per the Governor’s directive for at least two weeks. Education staff have been in contact with the State Department of Education and they are working to develop learning opportunities that provide continuity of education. These materials will serve to enhance skill gaps and provide enrichment experiences. Youth will be maintained on their units and will be provided with individual learning packets.
The Supreme Court of Virginia has issued an “Order Declaring A Judicial Emergency Due to COVID 19 Emergency”. The order limits court actions to emergency matters. As such, DJJ’s court service unit operations will respond to Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court emergency matters per code requirements and local practices. DJJ has provided guidelines and CSUs will limit overall operations per the individual unit’s approved contingency plans. There may be times when the offices will not be open to the public; however, plans have been developed to manage critical core functions. Intake Offices have established procedures to respond to emergency situations (i.e. arrests, protective orders, etc.). Probation and parole staff will be accessible (as needed) to respond to emergency matters.
Across the agency, managers are evaluating and implementing teleworking as an option for staff. The operational needs of the agency must be considered when enacting teleworking plans. Our goal is to be socially responsible by minimizing the number of people interacting in our offices as much as possible, while still accomplishing the functions of the agency.
Thanks to all families and stakeholders for working with us during these challenging times. Together we can make it through with as little disruption as possible. I wish you well as we practice every caution and make the best decisions that we can to protect ourselves and those around us during this pandemic.
DJJ's latest official Transformation Report recently submitted to the Virginia General Assembly contains promising information that I am excited to share. Three years after launching our transformation effort, the number of youth entering Virginia’s juvenile court system in 2019 continued its steady downward trend, and the one-year rearrest rate for first-time diversions, probation placements, and direct care releases (combined) has gone down from 25.1 percent in FY 2014 to 21.2 percent in FY 2018. This means that there were 850 fewer system-involved youth being arrested.
Additional highlights from the report include the following trends from FY 2010 and FY 2019:
We have done this by safely diverting more cases at the front of the system, responding to the higher risk youth placed on probation or committed with an expanding continuum of services, and making sure that the services are evidence-based and available across the Commonwealth. We also continue to expand and improve the rigorous rehabilitative and educational programming available for youth in state custody and to do all we can to keep those youth connected to their families and other caring adults.
As these numbers decline, we are able to continue focusing our attention and resources to better match the unique needs of individual youth. We have reinvested funds toward building a continuum of services and providing our employees and service providers with new tools to use with youth at every stage of system involvement. We are proud to report that:
None of this great progress is possible without the amazing dedication of our DJJ employees and partners. As we celebrate our successes, we are mindful that our work is not done. The report provides us guidance regarding the areas needing continued attention, particularly services for our highest risk youth. The upcoming new year will provide opportunities for us to continue our pursuit of ensuring that the right youth get the right intervention at the right time!
Please click on this link to read the full Transformation Plan Report for 2019. https://rga.lis.virginia.gov/Published/2019/RD683
National Hispanic Heritage Month is the period from September 15 to October 15 in the United States, when people recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the country's history, heritage and culture. Our country could not have become what it is today without the massive contributions of Americans of Hispanic descent, and DJJ would not be the agency we are today without the special skills and perspective of our Latino and Hispanic employees.
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. The day of Sept. 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is Oct. 12, falls within this 30 day period. The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum all join in paying tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.
In the coming weeks, we will be spotlighting the personal experiences of some of our employees, and celebrate their cultural heritage with them as we thank them for the unique skills they bring to serve our youth. I invite you to look for them on our Facebook page (search "Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice") through mid October. There are also a number of events around the Commonwealth you may wish to attend that will offer a look -- and taste -- into this rich culture:
Click HERE to view Gov. Ralph Northam's proclamation regarding Virginia's Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month.
Words can't adequately express how humbled and honored I was when Gov. Ralph Northam appointed me to be the next director of DJJ. This opportunity is certainly not something I envisioned as I was attending a juvenile delinquency course at the University of Virginia many years ago. But that's when a light bulb went off in my head: I had finally discovered my career path of working with at-risk youth. My career has been a series of unexpected and richly rewarding turns that have provided me the opportunity to contribute in various ways, most recently as the Deputy Director of Community Programs. And now, after some soul-searching, I am ready to continue to lead DJJ on its incredible journey that began five years ago.
DJJ has become a learning organization that now knows much more about what works with court-involved youth. To improve public safety, to strengthen communities, and to help young people change their life trajectories, I always tell the people who work with me that our goal should be to ensure that the "Right Youth receive the Right Interventions at the Right Time!" While the goal sounds simple, making it happen each and every time a young person enters our system is more complicated.
We are learning that it takes evidence-based and trauma-informed strategies that are proven to work with youth in the juvenile justice system. It takes having the right services and interventions in every community across the Commonwealth. It takes staff who are both skilled and compassionate, who use their heads and their hearts. It takes community partners – the judiciary, law enforcement, service providers. Finally, it takes seeing the strengths of the children and families we serve, and looking at them as partners in the process.
The Executive Team is solid and committed to moving forward. We will continue the focus on our guiding principles of Safety, Connection, Fairness and Purpose. We also will focus on equity to ensure that our policies and practices do not unfairly disadvantage some. Working together with our partners and stakeholders, our tireless, incredibly talented staff will continue to do the work necessary to serve the people of the Commonwealth. As DJJ's new director, I will do all I can to make sure that we always keep this in mind.
Valerie Boykin, Director
Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice
Five years ago when I was appointed DJJ Director by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, our agency was in the midst of annual budget cuts and hiring freezes, and disconnection between the various work units in the agency. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of DJJ’s staff, we have made great strides. The story we are now writing about DJJ is very different than what was being written five years ago. It is a story of pride and connection, success and innovation. We are not done yet, but we have come a long way.
That is why it is with a mixture of sadness and pride that I will step down as director on April 19. I am sad to say this because I have never loved a job more, nor so enjoyed the people I get to work with. I will never have a better job, nor work with a better team of people than I do now. We have made progress, and we have made a difference.
Gov. Ralph Northam has announced that the reins of the directorship will be handed to Valerie Boykin, our current Deputy Director of Community Programs, who is someone I know will continue leading the Transformation. I personally believe that Gov. Northam could not have picked a better person to become our next director than Valerie. In addition to being a 25-year DJJ employee – someone who has quite literally risen through the ranks from being an intake officer to director – Valerie has been an architect of major aspects of our transformation. Some of her accomplishments include:
Ms. Boykin is a native Virginian who was born and raised in Suffolk. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia, and her master’s from Old Dominion University. She has been an intake worker, a probation counselor and officer, an intake supervisor, parole services manager, and Court Service Unit director before assuming her current role in 2015. She will work with an outstanding executive leadership team that is fully committed to our continued transformation. Among these, I want to highlight our Chief Deputy Angela Valentine, who will stay on in her current role. Angela has been an indispensable player in our transformation. Her wisdom, her problem-solving skills, and her trusted voice have all been key ingredients in the success of the last five years. I was lucky to have her as chief deputy, and Valerie will be as well.
With Gov. Northam and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, we are into our second term with a Governor and Secretary who have demonstrated extraordinary support for our transformation. We have leaders throughout the agency and stakeholders in every corner of the Commonwealth who are invested and bought-in, and who have been largely responsible for the work of transformation to date. It is because of them that I leave DJJ in very good hands.
In November, DJJ submitted its third Transformation Update to the General Assembly. I am pleased to say that thanks to ongoing focus and hard work of our staff, this report documents the continued progress of our transformation. Below are some of the highlights:
This report, and our progress, generated considerable positive media coverage around Virginia. Links to the key stories are below. I invite you to read them, and celebrate these successes with us. It is important to remember that we have relied solely on the funds realized from re-purposing our now-closed facilities to fund these improvements, and have not sought an operating budget increase. We have done our best to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
While we are pleased to report the substantial progress our amazing staff has made in the first three years of our transformation, it is also prudent to remind ourselves that progress is fragile, and that, going forward, there will still be some bumps in the road. I am confident, however, that if we stay on this path, and continue to earn the support of our stakeholders, good things will happen for the children, families, and communities we serve.
Thank you for your support of our work.
Below are links to media coverage:
Click on this link to read the full report: www.djj.virginia.gov/pdf/admin/Transformation%20Update%202018%20FINAL.pdf
I’m pleased to announce that, using savings realized from the closure of the Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center, DJJ has contracted with three Boys and Girls Clubs (B&GC) in the Richmond, Newport News, Hampton and Danville communities to provide pro-social engagement and programming for youth being diverted from the juvenile court. The B&GC will provide services for DJJ-referred youth between the ages of 10 and 18 as part of a diversion initiative in communities affected by violence. Working with our Regional Service Coordinators, Evidence-Based Associates (EBA) and AMIKids, this program will provide an option for DJJ staff to screen referrals and divert youth with low-level offenses away from the juvenile court and instead connect them to pro-social adults and activities. If DJJ becomes aware of younger siblings living in the same household, they can also include those children in the referral to the B&GC as a preventative measure.
Because of our ability to reinvest savings from closing Beaumont, we are now in a position to invest in diversion programs like this one, particularly in communities where young people are at higher risk of criminal activity or victimization. The Boys and Girls Club has a long history of being a safe haven and providing programming and pro-social activities for youth. When a youth is referred to the B&GC, staff will assess the youth’s service needs, establish academic and other goals, and develop a service plan. All DJJ youth referred will be assigned a case coordinator and will receive the B&GC’s targeted outreach services, but will also have club membership and access to the all daily club activities. They also will have the opportunity to participate in other club programming designed to teach conflict management, gang resistance strategies and problem-solving techniques. B&GC programs include Street Smart, Career Launch, Money Matters, Smart Moves, Smart Girls and Passport to Manhood.
It’s important to remember that not all young people who come to DJJ’s intake units have the same level of offending or risk to reoffend. Bringing youth with low levels of offending into the juvenile justice system can sometimes inadvertently do more harm than good. This is an opportunity for us to help youth with less serious behavioral issues get needed services in their community without bringing them unnecessarily into the juvenile justice system. These new contracts with B&GC represent another positive step in our ongoing transformation toward keeping court-involved youth engaged in their communities where they have the support of their families and those who know them best.
Family Fun Day A Milestone Event - August 28, 2017
On Sunday, August 27th, DJJ relaunched an old tradition, hosting the first Family Day at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in at least five years.
Governor Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe were on hand, along with Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, former DJJ residents who came back to share their success stories, and more than 300 family members who traveled from as far away as Dallas, TX, to celebrate a new direction for our agency, and their futures.
Unlike typical visitation days, the Family Day provided the opportunity for the families to be outside with their kids, play games, eat together, and have a little fun. They played cornhole, watched sack races, strolled the grounds and got to know the staff members that have been working with their children.
Governor McAuliffe, whose support of our transformation effort has been so instrumental to its success, thoroughly enjoyed watching residents present musical numbers, including two songs from “Hamilton,” and sharp and evocative poetry they had written. He spoke about the outstanding work of the DJJ staff, whose professionalism and dedication through the last three years of culture change is having profound results with the young people in our system. He reminded us all that everyone makes mistakes, sometimes big ones … but that everyone deserves a second chance.
The day also featured presentations from youth who were previously confined at either Beaumont or Bon Air. Their words were particularly inspiring: JM said that the best way he could pay back all the staff who supported him during his commitment was to be successful. DB told of his plans to become a social worker, the best way he could think of to help other young people avoid what he went through.
This day would not have happened except for the hard work of all of our staff who have done so much for the last three years to get us to this moment, and who, in many cases, gave up their Sundays, or came in to work overtime, to make the day successful. The Bon Air team was out in force, with smiles on their faces, doing all they could to make sure everyone had fun and stayed safe. In addition, we had over 100 volunteers from our Court Service Units, central office, and our education team, who also came to Bon Air to lend a hand.
Chesterfield County Sheriff Department, Hanover County Sheriff Department, and Richmond Police Department, Virginia State Police and the Forest View Volunteer Rescue Squad attended with information tables and were available to help those present learn more about their work with their communities. And our friends at the Annie E. Casey Foundation helped provide food for the families as well as coolers for them to use when they travel on buses to and from future visitation days.
I suspect that this was the largest gathering of staff from across the various divisions in years, if not ever, and was certainly the largest gathering of our staff at an event where we were serving families and youth. Their time and effort were reminders of how lucky we are to have them, and how their work is as much about heart as it is about a paycheck.
Family Day was an appropriate name for the event. It represented all that we are doing to strengthen and engage the families of the youth we serve. Watching the sea of blue-shirted staff from across the agency smiling and laughing, and working together, also made it clear that we at DJJ are a family, too.
For a great story about the day from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, please click on the link below.
As many of you know, Virginia's juvenile justice system is challenged by the issue of racial and ethnic disparities and, in particular, the disparate and disproportionately high number of African-American children whose overrepresentation only grows more severe with each step deeper into the system. While black youth make up approximately 20 percent of Virginia’s youth population, they account for more than 50 percent of all intakes, and more than 70 percent of our direct care admissions.
These disparities impact real people and raise legitimate questions about the fairness of our system and whether all people are receiving equal treatment under the law. The crisis of racial and ethnic disparities in our juvenile justice system is not new, nor is it unique to Virginia or to the juvenile justice system. For example, the Virginia Department of Education’s Discipline, Crime and Violence report from 2014-15 showed that, while black students represented 23 percent of Virginia’s total student enrollment, they accounted for 53 percent of short-term suspensions, 60 percent of long-term suspensions, and 52 percent of expulsions.
This is a problem that is easier to identify than to solve, and one that defies easy solutions. The contributing factors are many, the issues challenging, and the people and agencies that must work together to take it on are numerous.
DJJ is working to address the problem of racial and ethnic disparities, and I am eager to collaborate with you as we move forward on this critical issue.
The work of our transformation, including developing a statewide continuum of services and alternative placements, focusing on the use of our data-driven structured decision making tools, modifying our Length of Stay system, and encouraging the appropriate use of diversions, will help address these issues. But we also know that an intentional and specific work plan is required.
Our agency recently partnered with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services to hold a two-day learning opportunity focused on racial and ethnic disparities (REDs) in the justice system. Stakeholders, including social workers, law enforcement, and school officials from eight different localities across the Commonwealth, gathered with DJJ staff to talk about fairness – or the lack thereof – why it is important and, most specifically, strategies we must consider and develop to insure that our juvenile justice system in Virginia is as fair as it can possibly be.
Tiana Davis and Roxana Matiella from the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, a national organization focused on juvenile justice reform including the problems of racial and ethnic disparities, led this training and conference. The goal of the gathering was intended to:
Some of the topics they covered included how to engage constructively about the traditionally uncomfortable subject of race; implicit bias; using data strategically to drive reform efforts; and reducing disparities at intake and disposition.
The local teams then engaged in strategic planning for local RED reforms that they could bring back to their communities and implement. Action plans included providing equity training in communities, using data to drive local reform, and establishing partnerships to promote and enhance equity in all local systems. Participants stated that they valued the forum where they could “openly discuss issues of race,” adding that “the open dialogue was very helpful. It allowed us to address issues in a respectful manner, but also gather perspective.” Another pointed out that seeing the raw data on implicit biases “helped take the emotion out of the discussion,” helping instead to focus on disparities.
This conference is the first step of the work ahead. We will begin laying out a series of steps and recommendations to move us forward in the coming months.
While this work will require difficult but crucial conversations, I know you will agree that we all need to make certain that every child who comes into Virginia’s juvenile justice system needs to be treated as effectively and fairly as possible.
Thank you in advance for your support of these efforts.
As DJJ completes the second year of its transformation effort, I wanted to take a moment to look back on the significant progress we made in 2016 and to thank all of our employees, partners, and other stakeholders for their remarkable contributions toward making it happen.
A key element of our success was due to the leadership of Governor McAuliffe and the Virginia General Assembly who agreed to grant us the authority to (i) reinvest savings from the downsizing of our facilities into savings into the development of a statewide continuum of evidence-based services and alternative placements and (ii) approve a bond package that will allow us to construct a new, small, state-of-the-art juvenile correctional center to serve the many youth who are committed to DJJ from the Hampton Roads region.
Those larger structural changes were only part of the 2016 story. On a day-to-day basis, our staff worked with many partners and stakeholders to accomplish great things, including:
I have been privileged as DJJ’s Director to work with so many people from across the Commonwealth who dedicate themselves, on a daily basis, to improving outcomes for the children, families, and communities they serve. From our dedicated employees, to elected officials, to local community partners, to the families and youth themselves, you are all playing a critical role in our work and the lives of the young people in our system. Our transformation is a shared effort and we could not be doing what we are doing without this hard work, support, and collaboration. Thank you!
I am very pleased to announce that DJJ has achieved a major milestone in its transformation effort with the awarding of contracts to two experienced service coordination agencies whose job it will be to develop a statewide continuum of evidence-based treatment services and community-based alternatives to placement in a Juvenile Correctional Center (JCC).
Too often, we hear stories of youth who are unable to get the services they need simply because of where they happen to live. We also see young people come to our JCCs who might have been better served in their communities had the right blend of evidence-based programs or alternative placements been available.
The partnership we have now forged with Evidence-Based Associates (EBA) out of Washington, D.C., and AMIkids (AMI) out of Tampa, FL, will help us eliminate “justice by geography” and insure that when young people get into trouble, they will have equal access to the right kind of help when and where they need it.
The key responsibilities of EBA and AMI will be to develop a statewide continuum of placements and services by insuring, either through partnering with existing providers or bringing in new services to fill existing treatment gaps, that court involved youth in each region of Virginia have access to services such as assessments and evaluations, individual and group-based clinical services, family focused interventions (including Functional-Family Therapy or Multi-Systemic therapy), individual and group-based cognitive skills training, residential services and monitoring services (surveillance, electronic monitoring, GPS). These two regional service coordinators will centralize referrals and billing, and report on performance outcomes.
EBA, which will be responsible for the northern, central and western regions of Virginia, has deep experience in managing behavioral health care and providing technical assistance to states and local communities, especially in the implementation of evidence-based practices. AMI dedicates itself to helping troubled youth develop into responsible and productive citizens by ensuring that they receive quality services to include education, mental health, substance abuse counseling, foster care/group homes, and an array of family services. They will be responsible for Virginia’s central and eastern regions.
Nothing will happen overnight, but we are excited to get started. We expect that the remainder of this calendar year will be spent developing the infrastructure to begin the initial phase of service provision in the new year. As we harvest more and more savings from our facility downsizing we will be able to increase the availability of services.
In the meantime, please be on the lookout for meetings and focus groups as AMI and EBA come to your region to learn more about the service needs and assets in your community.
To truly support the youth, families and communities we serve, we need to make sure that each court and each community across the Commonwealth has access to the right tools and supports. The alternative placements and evidence-based services we develop through these contracts will mean fewer young people committed to state custody, and safer and stronger communities.
Click here to read Gov. McAuliffe’s press release announcing the contract awards.
All DJJ stakeholders, ranging from the youth and families we serve, Virginia taxpayers, and the DJJ employees who are making it happen can take a strong measure of pride in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s (AECF) presentation at the Juvenile Correctional Center Task Force’s recent meeting. This report detailed the significant progress our agency has made in our transformation process since the Casey Foundation completed its first assessment of it in late 2014. While we realize that there is still a great deal of work to do before our transformation could be considered complete, this report nonetheless serves as a useful tool that allows us to step back and take stock of the amazing work of our staff and the truly positive changes that we are working together to make. A few report highlights:
While we remain grateful for the ongoing partnership with the Casey Foundation, which, at our request, is not only helping us further analyze our work but continuing to provide technical assistance on various critical initiatives, as DJJ Director I know that none of these changes could have taken place without the talent and dedication of our DJJ staff who work with our youth every day, or who support those who do. I wish to once again thank them for what they have achieved for our youth, our families and our communities. To see the entire presentation please click HERE.
The transformation of our system is about more than structural change. It is also about practice change, teamwork, and collaboration.
We took a big step forward in all of these areas on June 29-30 in Portsmouth with the gathering of more than 300 DJJ staff and partners from throughout the Commonwealth for our first-ever Reentry Summit.
The summit was made possible with a large federal grant for which DJJ was one of only three recipients nationwide, and comes at a time when the agency was recently notified that it has an opportunity for a third round of funding. A range of experts and DJJ staff presented on topics such as the new reentry manual, changing our system with evidence and a focus on outcomes, successfully transitioning youth to community schools, and helping youth develop personal action plans for when they return to their communities. There also was a plenary panel featuring youth from Community Treatment Model units at Beaumont and Bon Air, and another panel featuring two formerly committed youth who talked about their experiences, thanked the DJJ staff members who helped them, and offered suggestions for how to better serve other court-involved youth.
Reentry is a key component of DJJ’s transformation. The presentations and workshops concentrated on ways we could strengthen the reentry of court-involved youth to the community through increased use of evidence-based practices, family engagement, and local programs designed to keep youth on the right track and away from further offending. But this summit was much more than that. By bringing together employees from all disciplines in our agency, it also was about strengthening our relationships across the Department. The staff who work at our Court Service Units all around Virginia had the valuable opportunity to work alongside their colleagues who work with our youth in the juvenile correctional centers (JCCs) and share and formulate common ideas and goals. Witnessing, through the presentations of the residents from the JCCs, the great work that our staff are doing only reinforced opportunities for positive outcomes that we have when we all work together.
While I want to take a moment to congratulate Reentry Program Manager Ashaki McNeil for putting together the first of what will be an annual event that will help keep us moving forward toward ever-better outcomes for the youth, families and communities we serve, I also want to thank our procurement and budget teams along with other DJJ Support Staff for helping Ashaki pull together a great event in a very short period of time. Thanks to everyone!
As DJJ continues its journey toward increasing family engagement, we constantly look for ways to support families while their child is committed to one of DJJ’s facilities. We have heard from the youth in the Juvenile Correctional Centers (JCCs) and their families how frustrating it can be to want to visit your child but can’t due to distance and lack of resources.
I am excited to announce that this is no longer a barrier. On May 22, DJJ’s Transportation Program began transporting families from various points throughout the state to Beaumont and Bon Air JCCs at no cost to families. DJJ has partnered with Assisting Families of Inmates and James River and VanGo transportation companies to provide clean, modern transportation operated by professional, courteous drivers every other Sunday.
James River and VanGo will pick up from the following Court Service Units (CSUs): Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, Roanoke, Danville, Manassas and Woodbridge. You do not have to live in one of these areas, however: This opportunity is available for all families. To find out how to participate, families can contact their child’s probation officer. Click HERE for information on transportation serving your region.
Continued support and involvement from a family member is one of the most critical elements to ensuring successful treatment and reentry of a youth. As we continue our transformation, we will find more ways to build meaningful partnerships with families and provide support throughout this stressful and difficult time.
Thank you to the CSU staff who will be working additional hours to ensure our families board safely and the JCC staff who will be on site to greet our families as they arrive. They are dedicated to improving the lives of youth committed to DJJ.
For the first time in many years, the leadership of all 34 of DJJ’s Court Service Units (CSU) from every corner of the Commonwealth were gathered in one place April 21-22 to participate in an exciting two-day session entitled “CSU Leadership Transformation Summit.” As our transformation progresses, it is becoming increasingly important that team members at all levels of our organization are engaged in consistent, evidence-based, data-driven methods and decision-making. This summit provided tools and strategies to CSU leadership to bring back to their staffs.
The key theme we concentrated on was “The right youth, the right interventions at the right time equals success.” An outstanding slate of presenters, including DJJ staff members and special invited guests, provided powerful information on topics that included effective intake practices, reentry system reform, the significance of cultural competence and culturally responsive practices, and a look at how the Community Treatment Model is progressing at DJJ’s juvenile correctional centers. Special guests included Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, Tracey Wells-Huggins of Justice For Families, and Mike Collins of Justice System Partners, who introduced attendees to the Justice Transformation Institute (JTI). The Institute prepares supervisors to effectively and efficiently implement and sustain organizational change.
We thank the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Court Service Unit Directors Association, Justice for Families and Justice System Partners, not to mention our outstanding DJJ staff, for making the summit a memorable one. Click HERE to see a gallery of photos from the event.
We have redesigned our website to ensure that whether you work for the Department, are the parent of a young person in our system, or an interested community member, you are able to find what you need. Your feedback is welcome as we continue to make improvements.
Some of the new features you will find include:
We also want you to know more about the exciting transformation within the Department of Juvenile Justice where we are taking steps across our system to use data and research to get the best outcomes for the youth, families and communities we serve. While providing accountability and rigorous rehabilitation at appropriate and individualized levels to each young person in our system, we also want to make sure that we are providing them with the building blocks to positively develop as young adults and law- abiding citizens.
The cornerstones of positive youth development are a sense of safety (whether in the community, in a facility, or at home); connection to family, a positive community, and adults who care; engagement in activities and services that add purpose to life and future; and a sense of fairness in the system – that is that similarly situated youth get treated in similar fashion by us, by law enforcement, and by the judicial system.
We encourage you to check back regularly to get an update on our transformation efforts. We are converting from what has been a more traditional juvenile corrections model to what we are calling the Community Treatment Model in which interdisciplinary teams of DJJ staff are dedicated to providing smaller, consistent groups of JCC residents with treatment, accountability, and support throughout their time with us.
Thank you for your interest in the work of the Department.