State panel takes closer look at juvenile detention centers

Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 8:38 PM EDT
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VINTON, Va. (WDBJ) - A state panel is considering the future of Virginia’s juvenile detention centers, as the number of young people in the system continues to decline.

Tuesday, members met in the Roanoke Valley and toured the Roanoke Valley Juvenile Detention Center.

The question Sen. Dave Marsden (D-Fairfax Co.) posed to the advisory panel wasn’t “Are Virginia’s juvenile detention centers meeting the challenge?”

“Our juvenile detention facilities in Virginia are first-rate,” Marsden told members of the advisory group evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of Virginia’s juvenile detention centers.

But in the face of declining numbers, are state and local dollars being spent wisely to deliver the best results?

A recent study found there are 70% fewer young people in Virginia’s juvenile justice system than a decade ago.

“There’s one detention home in Virginia that has five children and a budget of $4 million,” Marsden said in an interview. “I think we can start looking at deciding where these state dollars go. The state has invested over half of the cost of what goes on in these facilities. And I think we need to look at how that money is being spent.”

The meeting at the Vinton Public Library included a presentation from Straight Street on its residential program ‘The Lampstand’ for survivors of sexual exploitation. And following the meeting, members toured the Roanoke Valley Juvenile Detention Center at Coyner Springs.

Sen. David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke Co.) is a member of the Virginia Commission on Youth and attended the advisory group meeting.

“We’re having a collaborative discussion today to make sure it’s done wisely, because distance still matters,” Suetterlein told WDBJ7 in an interview. “It’s important that folks be close to families, because the goal is to have these folks who are in trouble in their youth to get on a different path so they can be productive members of society.”

The discussion could lead toward consolidation of some of Virginia’s 24 juvenile detention centers, but the process is just beginning.

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