Crime commission gets juvenile justice facts

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A packed house watched as the Virginia State Crime Commission again took up the issue of the juvenile justice system. At issue, is whether the commission should recommend making it tougher to try juveniles as adults in Virginia's courtrooms. Child advocates say the current system -in which prosecutors have a lot of influence- is doing more harm than good.

Liane Rozzell is the executive director of a child advocacy group. She's also the parent of a 14-year-old, who was once confined in the juvenile system...instead of an adult prison.

"Young people, still have the ability to change as they grow older. And when they're put in situations where they're transferred into the adult system, research indicates that it also makes the situation worse," said Rozzell, who heads up Families & Allies of Virginia's Youth, based in Arlington.

Liane and many others filled a hearing room, where the Virginia State Crime Commission again heard the facts on Virginia's juvenile justice system, including the statistic that 75% of juveniles convicted in Circuit Court receive an adult sentence. Critics say the system makes it easy to try even 14-year-olds, as adults.

"Children can't get tattoos without their parental permission, until they turn 18, they can't buy cigarettes, they can't go to an R movie until they're 17, they can't vote. They can't do all these things. And so why is it that in this one particular instance we say we wanna treat them like adults?" said Andy Block, Legal Director for "JustChildren".

Ultimately, child advocates want to see the commission give more power to judges, at the expense of prosecutors, when it comes to trying juveniles as adults.

The crime commission doesn't make the law though. It can only make recommendations to the General Assembly. A recommendation on this, is not expected until December.

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