Detention center closing criticized - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Detention center closing criticized

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CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) -

NBC12 was the first to tell you about major changes for the Department of Juvenile Justice.

We got our hands on the internal re-organization plan. A former DJJ employee said parents across the state should be concerned.

This plan to cut costs in the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice is being called flat out dangerous by a former DJJ employee.

"I'm just bold enough to speak out because there are employees, and parents and students that are scared to speak out," said Kandise Lucas.

NBC12 called up the whistleblower and had an extensive conversation about the seven bullet internal memo. It recommends closing several facilities including the Oak Ridge Juvenile Justice Center in Chesterfield. That is the only center that houses students with severe special needs. The plan is to now ship them to Beaumont JCC.

"The whole atmosphere and environment is not conducive," said Lucas.

Beaumont happens to also house maximum security inmates.

"I would strongly urge any parent who has a child with special needs, who is incarcerated, to definitely follow up with this because your child could be in danger."

We got a four-page list of complaints from supporters of the Oak Ridge program. They note a 2011 DJJ report claimed closing the special needs facility was "not a viable option."

"You have to have specialized services for students with special needs," said Lucas.

We sent an email to the DJJ questioning this direct contradiction and apparent dismissal of the departments own report. They responded saying, "received, and promising to get back to [you] soon."

So far we've heard nothing else from them.

Monday was a holiday, so we'll follow up with the department. Meanwhile, the Virginia Department of Education is planning site visits for all DJJ centers starting early in February.

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