'Traumatized' formerly incarcerated youth praises plan to close VA detention centers

Published: Oct. 30, 2015 at 3:50 AM EDT|Updated: Nov. 9, 2015 at 7:05 AM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - There have been several viral examples of young people behaving badly, so what's the appropriate response? Is it okay to continue locking up kids who break the law? The Virginia Director of Juvenile Justice is considering other options. 

Da'Quon Beaver spent the last eight years in a juvenile detention center. "I was traumatized. I was sad. I was just distraught because I couldn't see my mother." 

Virginia's incarcerated youth turned to art work to express their frustration with the current system, and taxpayers are spending $140,000 per kid, per year to keep them housed in large detention centers. "We can get much better outcomes for the people of Virginia," said Andrew Block, who is director of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice. "We can do it at a lower cost."

"What we are proposing to do is replace what we have now with two smaller facilities," Block said. The proposal means moving away from mass incarceration of youth in Virginia. Block would also like to see a focus on prevention, alternatives to youth incarceration, family and community engagement, and re-entry supports for youth.

"People always say the children are our future," Beaver said. "If we are putting our future in a box for a period of time and then just leaving them there, [should] we expect them to come out of that box and be on the same level as everyone else? It's not going to work."

So what's next? State leaders must discuss funding for the changes. The budget discussion begins in December.

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