Hello! I am humbled and honored that Governor Youngkin has appointed me as the new Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice. My experience as a juvenile prosecutor with extensive knowledge of gang intervention, identification, and prosecution provides a varied and unique perspective on the Juvenile Justice System. As we know, juvenile intervention, rehabilitation and justice are crucial aspects of public safety. The services offered to juvenile offenders may forever change the trajectory of their lives. I commit to ensuring that every juvenile that comes within our care and supervision is treated fairly, and every effort is made to ensure a balanced, positive rehabilitative effect at every step. I am honored to serve with a team of dedicated and motivated individuals to address the challenges facing the department, and those that work within it.
The end of the year is traditionally a time to reflect on what we have achieved and what lies ahead. We hoped that when 2020 ended, we had put most of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us. The arrival of the Delta and Omicron variants, however, required us to maintain our vigilance, and to do everything in our power to protect the health and well-being of one another along with the youth in our care and other consumers of our services. Unfortunately, we have continued to experience occasional positive cases among staff across all divisions. Fortunately, due to several vaccination clinics led by our medical team plus rigorous safety protocols in place at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center, we have had no recent cases reported among our residents. On a more somber note, we have lost a few colleagues through the year from various causes. They will certainly be missed and forever in our hearts.
One of the most affirming events of 2021 was the awarding to DJJ of the 2020-21 L. Douglas Wilder Excellence in Government Award in the Innovation in Government category. This award was given in recognition of the positive outcomes for Virginia's court-involved youth as a result of our transformation plan. Judges noted that the plan "touched virtually every aspect of the agency's operation. [It] has yielded dramatic gains that have resulted in positive outcomes for the youth and families including an increased number of successful diversion and probation cases, a broader continuum of services available across the Commonwealth, a reduction in the number of youth incarcerated in state correctional centers, increased attainment in treatment and educational goals including high school graduation rates." I am extremely proud of our dedicated DJJ professionals for their work that resulted in this extraordinary recognition.
Since that time, we have continued to serve our youth and their families in the face of continued challenges presented by the pandemic. Employees in all divisions of the Department have contributed in ways big and small to ensure that we fulfill our mission. It is my honor and privilege to highlight a few of those accomplishments below.
Court service units within the Community Division are continuing to provide full services to the public. Many offices have returned to full staffing adhering to safety protocols in place, while some telework schedules remain in place in response to virus transmission in localities. Staff adapted to health protocols by providing more virtual sessions to the youth they work with. For in-person meetings, they installed separation barriers, wore masks and practiced social distancing.
Other Community Division highlights include the establishment of a new Diversion Unit to provide a greater focus on our front end system components. This Central Office based unit will work with localities to deploy the best mix of Virginia Community Crime Control Act (VJCCCA) services, explore prevention opportunities, expand diversion options, and create a broader array of detention alternatives. This unit led an effort which recently netted a $1 million grant award from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to provide a system assessment of our front end processes and services in collaboration with an array of stakeholders.
Grant funding for youth was established by the Reentry Unit in partnership with Assisting Families of Inmates (AFOI). Resources have been made available for paroled youth through the "Health Encouragement and Assistance in Reentry for Thriving Youth (HEARTY)" program through generous support from the Jenkins and Nunnally Foundations along with AFOI. This funding, which was recently expanded to a limited number of probation youth, provides up to $200 per youth to assist with physical and mental health needs.
The division has also worked to adopt a new trauma screening tool called Screening for Experiences and Strength (SEAS) as we continue to research best practices and assessments for our work with youth. The tool was developed, piloted and evaluated by the Virginia Linking Systems of Care Project, renamed Virginia Heals. DJJ has partnered with staff from the Department of Social Services to draft a procedure for tool implementation in 2022. The SEAS will replace the ACE tool currently in use. The SEAS will provide a more comprehensive screening of trauma experiences for the youth we serve.
The division, along with the Equity Workgroup, led the drafting of a Race and Ethnicity Equity Assessment Tool to be used cross divisionally in support of department efforts to further embed equity in our work. The tool will be used to assess all operation division procedures. Implementation of the tool promotes opportunities to prevent and eliminate practices that contribute to racial discrimination and negative consequences for racial and ethnic groups.
The Residential Services Division has seen a dramatic decline in committed youth, wrapping up the year with fewer than 200 committed youth statewide. Those youth are served almost equally at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center and a host of alternative placements. The division continues to develop individualized case plans within the Community Treatment Model in an effort to redirect negative behavior and assist youth in their preparation for a successful release.
The division participated in a nearly year-long emergency planning technical assistance (TA) program led by the Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators (CJJA) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR). In the 11 months of the TA program, the DJJ cohort dedicated roughly 300 hours to the composition of a new emergency operations plan for Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center. The TA leaders expressed that they have rarely seen such significant growth on a plan, and they have requested to use the Virginia plan as a model as they work with other states in the future.
The division recognizes the importance of family visitation. Campus visitation was reopened during the spring and summer months as the pandemic positivity rates fell. Sadly, it was suspended again this fall as the numbers increased. Phone calls and video visitation remain available. In-person visits from family members will begin again at Bon Air as soon as it is safe to do so.
The Division of Education seamlessly began the 2021-22 school year at the Yvonne Miller School in August featuring a year-round curriculum that includes in-person classes, along with the ability to transition to virtual classes, if needed. Eighty percent of all eligible seniors graduated this past summer in spite of the challenges with school closure and virtual learning from the units. DOE is continuing a partnership with J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, where residents who have earned their high school diplomas or GEDs can go on to post-secondary studies. Additionally, youth participating in the Russian Literature course with the University of Virginia received one college credit for the first time this year.
Behind the scenes, the Administration and Finance Division supported their colleagues in all other units by deploying laptops and virtual private networks to an increasing number of employees who are working from home or other remote locations. They educated employees and supervisors during a time of heightened emotions and fear, supporting our workforce so they could continue operations. Our Risk Manager, Business Offices, and Procurement teams made sure our employees had all of the necessary pandemic related equipment, services, and supplies to ensure safe workspaces and housing units. The Budget and Accounting Units kept pace with special funds as they became available along with the payment of new expenditures through the year. The Research Unit led numerous surveys and evaluation efforts along with collaborating with several external researchers to examine and learn from our efforts. The Training and Development Unit has continued to expand its virtual training opportunities across the department.
Our Policy and Legislation staff worked with representatives of several child advocacy groups to address questions and concerns about our residents’ safety. They also kept our Board along with the Judicial and Commonwealth Attorney Liaison Groups informed of DJJ activities, policies and procedures, as appropriate. Grievance coordinators continued to address youth concerns. The Certification Unit, which is responsible for auditing all our Court Service Units and residential facilities, took the opportunity to develop a mostly virtual process for auditing that is efficient, fiscally responsible and sustainable.
Our Quality Assurance Unit stayed on course with the piloting of the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP™) in two of our CPPs. Fourteen staff from both the Quality Assurance Unit and Practice Improvement and Services Unit through virtual and in person observation, shadow training and interviewing are well on their way to being fully trained as Level I SPEP Specialists (Level 1 certification). Our Investigations and Interstate Compact Units responded judiciously to the various requests as they came forth.
Late in the year, the Virginia's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) issued a 184-page report that summarizes its recent review of Virginia's juvenile justice system. The report, which covers a 10-year period, looks at multiple entities and components of the juvenile justice system. JLARC's task is to review and make recommendations regarding areas of improvement. It addresses youth disproportionality; attorney representation for youth; juvenile detention center capacity, treatment, and education as provided by the state Department of Education; and DJJ operations and programming including Court Service Unit diversions, community supervision, employee training, facility programming, recidivism, and facility siting.
The report notes DJJ’s progress in several areas, due largely to our transformation efforts during the last five years. It also makes recommendations for improvement, many of which we agree with and are working on. We have always acknowledged that continued work is needed. In a few areas, we have a different interpretation. After we have a chance to fully digest the report, we will share more information across the department and prepare an action plan to address DJJ recommendations, as appropriate. Click HERE to read the full report
Finally, the extended leadership team has led efforts to capture our critical ongoing work and the work ahead into a draft Strategic Plan for the agency. The plan incorporates issues around Culture; Communication; Operational Capacity; External Engagement and Partnerships; Recruitment and Retention; Programming; and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). As we approach this work along with everyone else, we yearn to return to "normal," and we hope 2022 will afford that opportunity. Yet we also understand that the pandemic has probably redefined what "normal" will look like in years to come. Over the last two years, our incredible staff has demonstrated that they can adapt and thrive in any situation presented to them. Whatever happens, it will remain our unwavering goal to serve our youth and their families to the best of our ability.
My wish is that the coming holidays provide a chance for you and your families to enjoy some quality time together, however you choose to observe them, and that 2022 provides a brighter future for all.
-- Valerie Boykin, Director
Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice
It’s hard to believe, but it has been a year and a half since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that has so profoundly changed the way we live our daily lives. While we are slowly inching back toward normalcy, the arrival of the Delta Variant has given us a clear signal that the pandemic is not yet over, and that we must remain on our guard.
During the last 18 months, I have witnessed some heroic work being done at every level of the DJJ organization in the face of ongoing uncertainty in circumstances that are new to everyone. I wish to briefly acknowledge just a few of their amazing accomplishments:
Residential Services, which works most directly with the youth in our care, put our residents’ health first by providing excellent medical care to 37 youth who tested positive for the coronavirus, all of whom recovered without ever having a significant illness. They also arranged to release many youth early to help protect them from the virus: At the beginning of the pandemic there were 205 youth at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center; today there are 107. All during the pandemic, staff have ensured a safe, sanitized environment for youth and staff through numerous protocols, and have conducted several vaccination clinics for residents.
Community Programs adjusted rotating telework schedules to make sure office and court services were consistently provided at each of DJJ’s 30 Court Service Units. Staff modified physical office settings with separation barriers and practiced social distancing to provide additional protections for themselves and the public. As so many of us did, staff adapted their coaching curriculum to be able to provide sessions virtually. Always looking to improve even during a pandemic, Community Programs also initiated a collaboration with investigators from the University of Massachusetts, University of California -- Berkeley and the Council of State Government to do a study that would identify strategies to reduce reoffending among court-involved youth.
Our Education Unit kept learning among our youth as seamless as possible by working closely with DJJ’s Information Technology team to establish virtual instruction in the units. This past February, they transitioned to a “hybrid” model that combines virtual instruction with in-person teaching. Twenty-three students earned their diplomas or GED certificates in the 2020-21 school year; many of them went on to take virtual courses with J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College. The 2021-22 school year, which began Aug. 2, will feature a year-round academic calendar for the first time.
Policy and Legislation had to navigate through an extraordinarily high amount of legislation in 2020 that affected DJJ during the pandemic, a special COVID-19 session of the Virginia General Assembly, and then the 2021 session that began just two months later. Staff members also worked closely with representatives of several child advocacy groups to address questions and concerns about our residents’ safety. The Certification Unit, which is responsible for auditing all our Court Service Units and residential facilities, took the opportunity to develop a mostly virtual process for auditing that is efficient, fiscally responsible and sustainable.
The many arms of the Administration and Finance jumped into the fray to support all our other units in numerous creative ways. Our Training and Organizational Development unit converted many of their in-person offerings to a virtual format, conducting almost 2,800 individual learning experiences for DJJ employees. Faced with a huge number of DJJ employees suddenly having to telecommute, our Information Technology team deployed 140 laptops and 300 Virtual Private Networks to them in the first 45 days. Human Resources quickly found themselves traversing a complicated and ever-changing set of workplace regulations and best practices. They educated employees and supervisors during a time of heightened emotions and fear, supporting our workforce so they could continue operations. Our Risk Manager, Business Offices, and Procurement teams made sure our employees had all of the necessary pandemic related equipment, services, and supplies to ensure safe workspaces and housing units.
Through it all, the Executive Team and those who support them in our Central Office have provided guidance that has been steeped in wisdom and sound judgment when it was needed most.
I would also be remiss if I did not reference the great contributions of all of our community partners as well. The two local Court Service Units also had a heavy lift and worked closely with us as we implemented new protocols. Our Community Placement Programs, private residential and community-based providers continued to provide services while also struggling with staffing issues and having to convert to new ways of delivering services. We also appreciate the support from our administration, the courts and advocacy groups during this challenging time.
As DJJ’s director, the level of professionalism and dedication of our employees and partners continues to be a source of great pride for me. On behalf of our residents, their families and all citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I thank them.
As summer approaches, Gov. Northam has lifted a number of the pandemic restrictions we have all had to live with over the past year. Relief appears to be in sight as case numbers drop, and the "normalcy" we have all yearned for seems closer. But with different strains of COVID-19 starting to make the rounds among many people still hesitant to get vaccinated, we cannot let our guard down.
We as an agency are doing our part to educate our employees about vaccinations, their side effects, and the major positive role they are playing in reducing the number of cases, both in Virginia and around the nation. I wish to share with you the information we are sharing with our employees, as well as my wishes for a healthy, happy summer season.
Valerie Boykin, Director
Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice
Dear DJJ Family:
Across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have lasting effects. We appreciate how much you have already done to adapt during this challenging time. As you know, we have taken many preventive measures against COVID-19 for many months to help keep you, our entire staff, your families, and our youth safe. We have worked under some uncertain and often stressful conditions, and you have helped make it possible for us to continue our essential operations.
The responsibility is ours, as a community, to help stop this virus. Now we have a new, safe, and effective tool to help us do that—COVID-19 vaccines.
It’s important that you are vaccinated because of your role in maintaining critical infrastructure operations. Many of you are at increased risk of getting COVID-19 and spreading it to others because work-related duties must be performed on site and involve being in close contact with the public or coworkers.
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine gives you an added layer of protection against COVID-19 and could also protect your coworkers and your family. We all need to step up to beat COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccination is one of the strongest tools we can use to fight this pandemic together. I ask you to join us in protecting your community by getting vaccinated.
Here are some key points about COVID-19 vaccination:
We want the pandemic to be over. We all want to feel safe at work and in the community and to be able to shake hands with your coworkers.
We all play a part in this effort, and you are key. Please sign up to get your COVID-19 vaccination.
If you want to know more about COVID-19 vaccines, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines.
I had the distinct honor on April 15 to accept, on behalf of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, the Innovation in Government Award from the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. This award was given in recognition of positive outcomes for Virginia’s court-involved youth as a result of our transformation plan. The award was presented in a virtual format as part of the schools 2020-21 Excellence in Government Awards. It was a very moving to hear kind words and accolades from former Governor Wilder and the VCU officials. It was a particular honor for DJJ to be included with such notable awardees as Dick Howard, John C. Purnell Jr., Henrico County Public Library, the Health Brigade, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, and Congressman Bobby Scott who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Judges for the award noted that our transformation plan "touched virtually every aspect of the agency’s operation. Since its inception, DJJ’s Transformation Plan has yielded dramatic gains that have resulted in positive outcomes for the youth and families including an increased number of successful diversion and probation cases, a broader continuum of services available across the Commonwealth, a reduction in the number of youth incarcerated in state correctional centers, increased attainment in treatment and educational goals including high school graduation rates.”
Based on the results of a comprehensive system assessment by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in 2014 we began planning for a comprehensive transformation of the juvenile justice system under the leadership of former director Andy Block. Since then, DJJ has safely reduced the number of youth placed in state custody and reformed correctional practices to focus on more rigorous treatment and education. We also have closed two juvenile correctional centers and reinvested the savings into building a statewide continuum of community-based services and supports.
This recognition is the result of the great work that our dedicated employees, colleagues, and partners have done over the past few years to introduce these new practices, programs and services to court-involved youth and their families. While we understand that there is still much work to do, I believe all can take justifiable pride in what we have accomplished up to now. This high honor belongs to everyone within DJJ along with our many partners.
I invite you to click on the link below to view a special program aired on WTVR Channel 6 in Richmond on April 22.
It’s not an anniversary observance I ever thought I would write about, nor do I hope to again. But we now somberly realize that it has been one year since we announced our first COVID 19 case with an employee on April 1, 2020, and the first youth on April 5.
While no one will look back on the year fondly, it is nonetheless entirely appropriate for us to remember and to thank everyone on the DJJ team for performing heroically during what could be for many the most challenging 12 months of their careers.
With so many unknowns swirling around us, DJJ staff continued to care for the youth and families, and each other. They met and overcame obstacles they have never encountered before with grace, creativity and professionalism.
While it certainly has not been easy for any of us, I am nonetheless extremely proud to have served as DJJ director during the past year. In continuing to perform required duties including caring for our young people, often in face-to-face situations, our staff have performed what I believe to be some of the most difficult work a state employee could do in an ongoing atmosphere of uncertainty.
When this pandemic is finally over, our team will be stronger than ever. I believe we already are.
I am pleased to announce a new initiative for the Department of Juvenile Justice. DJJ, in partnership with the University of Virginia School of Law, will be undertaking a project to research and provide guidance on strategies to strengthen and address gaps in gender responsive treatment services for our female population for both community based and residential services. We hope that through this initiative we will create change in the way services are provided to adolescent female offenders and girls in high risk situations across the state.
Andy Block, former DJJ Director and current Director of the State and Local Government Law Clinic at UVA, has offered the services of the clinic and will lead this effort for the University. We believe that the needs of girls must be addressed in a developmentally appropriate manner and reduce involvement so only those who pose a serious threat to public safety move deeper into our system.
Our most recent data shows that we have incurred a recent up-tick in the number of females committed to the Department. Although females represent a small share of our committed population, they have proven to be some of the most challenging. These females are demonstrating histories of trauma and higher rates of mental health issues. Many of these females, prior to DJJ involvement, have been placed in residential treatment facilities where they have been discharged unsuccessfully due to aggressive and assaultive behaviors further criminalizing their mental health behaviors and leaving commitment to DJJ as the default.
In order to conduct this research, in addition to creating a literature review, two law students from UVA will speak with CPP staff, and regional service coordinators, along with selected Court Service Unit and Central Office employees to learn what is currently provided, where the gaps in services are, and what resources are needed to strengthen services. The students will be researching promising and evidence based gender responsive program models in Virginia and other states that stakeholders and data suggest are effective. The literature review and consultation with experts will assist with building an array of services options across the span of a female’s experience in the juvenile justice system, including programs focused on prevention.-
Catherine Ward and Chris Yarrell, students in Professor Block’s State and Local Government Policy Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law will be assigned to this project. Clinic students perform legal and policy research for state and local government agencies under Professor Block’s supervision. Chris and Catherine have played critical roles supporting the work of Governor Northam’s Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law and also worked with Delegate Sally Hudson to craft legislation to improve Virginia’s unemployment insurance program. Prior to law school both Catherine and Chris have done work to improve opportunities for vulnerable children and are very excited to be working with DJJ to help the Department figure out how best to work with young women in Virginia’s juvenile justice system.
I will also convene an internal workgroup to serve as advisors to the UVA students and simultaneously begin to review our practices and responses with females. We believe that these efforts will provide us with needed information to develop statewide effective programming for females, intervene at an earlier point in their trajectory, provide gender responsive interventions and prevent further penetration into the juvenile justice system.
We hope to report initial findings by the end of summer.
After such a challenging year, it is good to be able to share some good news! I am excited to announce a new partnership and pilot project to support youth and family needs. On December 17, the Board of Trustees of the non-profit Family and Children's Trust Fund of Virginia (FACT) voted to support a new funding initiative to assist justice-involved youth. This new pilot project, which will be launched soon in two yet-to-be-selected jurisdictions, promises to provide much-needed yet nominal financial assistance to youth who have experienced family violence or trauma.
FACT's mission is to "amplify community programs and initiatives focused on the prevention and treatment of family violence and the protection of children through funding and awareness." The unfortunate reality is that a high percentage of youth who become involved in the juvenile justice system have experienced some form of violence or trauma. While DJJ provides an array of services, many youth and their families could benefit greatly from additional resources that are available to help them on the path to success. DJJ, as a state agency, is limited in its ability to make direct financial contributions to youth. DJJ and FACT will collaborate to support families most in need of these resources.
Youth and families identified to receive the funds may benefit from support in areas such as emergency needs, educational assistance, and employment tools. It is intended to “fill the gaps” in existing support on a small scale.
While the details of the effort are still being worked out, the basics are as follows: FACT and DJJ will work with Trauma Informed Community Networks (TICNs) to identify the first two Virginia communities based on a combination of need, TICN capacity, and court service unit (CSU) capacity. We are starting small. Donations will be collected by FACT and when an initial $5,000 threshold is reached, FACT will match the $5,000 from existing funds, thus providing the two communities $5,000 each to use to help youth and families referred to the TICN by the local court service unit. No single youth or family would receive more than $500 during the pilot period. If the pilot is successful, it is hoped to be expanded following the trial period.
We wanted you to know about this significant development, and we will keep you abreast of how the program progresses. We thank the FACT Board of Trustees for their support in serving our youth. Click on the link below to learn more about FACT.
I am providing the below details for your information. You may also share the information with others who are looking for a year-end effort to support or planning their 2021 giving and interested in making a donation to jump start the effort.
Family and Children’s Trust Fund
801 East Main Street, 15th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219
Greetings to all,
For many of us, this time of year brings holidays that are meant for gathering around a table with family and friends, giving thanks, enjoying food and the company of the people who mean the most to us. This year the holidays won’t quite be the same. The COVID-19 pandemic is still very much a reality. But that doesn't mean you can't have an enjoyable holiday season while still taking measures to be safe. As we move forward to celebrate seasonal holidays, I urge you to follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for healthy and safe celebrations.
Latest Bon Air JCC Test Numbers
I wanted to share, as a follow up to the recent note posted on our COVID 19 page, that we have two positive youth at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center (JCC). Until the most recent positive cases, we had not had a youth to test positive since July 26. Bon Air continues to remain vigilant about screening staff and monitoring residents. As numbers are increasing in Chesterfield County as well as across the State, we have made a decision to suspend transfers into Bon Air JCC temporarily. We will evaluate the situation weekly.
While we have been fortunate in recent months that the youth in our care have remained free of the COVID-19 virus, we must nonetheless remain vigilant as colder weather sets in, causing people to gather more indoors, and the number of cases in Virginia is again on the upswing. The mitigation measures we have had in place since March at Bon Air JCC and at alternative placement sites around the Commonwealth remain in effect to provide maximum protection for our youth and staff.
Bon Air Visitation Suspended
Unfortunately, due to the recent increase in cases and out of an abundance of caution, we have once again suspended in-person visitation which began on a limited basis in early October. While we understand the value of one-on-one contact with family members, our first priority remains the health of everyone, especially those entrusted to our care. Efforts are underway to expand video visitation.
COVID-19 in the Court Service Unit and Community
As numbers surge across Virginia, we are particularly concerned for our Court Service Unit Staff and other community stakeholders. The numbers of positive tests of our CSU Staff has been trending up weekly. Our CSU staff are deemed essential workers and have frequent contact with the public. CSU Directors have proactively taken measures to implement safety precautions and have been responsive to all reported positive cases. Offices have been closed for deep cleaning and schedules have been modified to support teleworking while maintaining a level of operation and services. There have been positive cases reported in other community partner offices and in some juvenile detention centers. We must remain diligent in our efforts to use all precautions available to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.
Vaccine Is Coming
While the coming winter will demand, once again, that we religiously follow CDC guidelines (social distancing, hand-washing, wearing a mask, noting any illness, and being mindful of who you interact with) to help keep the number of cases as low as possible as we spend most of our hours indoors, we are heartened by the news that two very effective vaccines will soon be on their way to Virginia. At his press conference Dec. 2, Gov. Northam announced that the first 70,000 doses of the two-part vaccine are expected to arrive in Virginia by mid-December. Health care workers and residents of senior living facilities will rightfully be the first to receive them, but more doses will arrive in the weeks to come. Gov. Northam expressed the hope that a vaccination will be available to all Virginians by mid-2021.
A Heartfelt Thank You
I, along with the rest of DJJ’s staff, our youth and their families we serve, rejoice at the prospect of bringing normalcy once again to our daily lives. When it does finally return, there simply will be no adequate way to thank our staff members, and indeed all the brave health care workers and medical personnel throughout the nation, for the service they continued to provide every day despite facing unknown dangers of a little-understood disease. We know their ongoing caring professionalism will carry us through this pandemic, and that our youth will be the better for it.
The year 2020 has presented the world with challenges no one anticipated. The pandemic also happens to have occurred during a presidential election year in our country, and the exchange of political ideas has never been more important than it is now as Election Day nears. The youth in DJJ’s care follow current events as we all do, and want to make a difference in whatever way they can. That’s why I decided this summer to ask our staff to prepare those youth who are eligible to be able to cast their votes, and to educate those not yet old enough about the process so they could be ready when the time comes for them to vote.
After weeks of planning and anticipation, the residents of Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center (JCC) participated in a "mock" election in which they cast ballots for President, U.S. Senator and local representatives, with 18 eligible residents over the age of 18 casting actual ballots that were counted in the election. DJJ’s Reentry Unit was instrumental in getting 16 additional eligible residents housed in our Community Placement Programs to register to vote.
Under the guidance of its advisor, RS-II Franklin Wilkes, Bon Air's Student Government Association (SGA) took a lead role in helping their fellow residents learn about and prepare for the electoral process. They began with a virtual educational session via Zoom, which I attended along with, Policy Analyst Lara Todd, Deputy Director for Residential Services Joyce Holmon, Deputy Director for Education Dr. Melinda Boone, Reentry Manager Ashaki McNeil, Bon Air JCC Superintendent Russell Jennings, Assistant Bon Air Superintendent Lakeisha Henry, Residential Program Manager Shaun Parker, Community Manager Rukiya Bellamy, Residential Administrative Specialist Patee Brock and Rights and Accountability Manager Brooke Henderson.
SGA members then met with residents in every unit to help get them ready for their first-ever voting experience. Each unit created information flyers and campaign posters, and looked at sample ballots. On the day of the election, residents picked up their ballots, went to actual polling booths on loan to DJJ where they marked the ballots, then dropped them into a ballot box.
Learning about the voting process will continue, now that the mock election has been completed. Mr. Wilkes will be talking with the residents about restoration of rights, which will be very important knowledge for them to have as they return to their communities.
It was truly exciting to see this level of civic engagement among our residents, nearly all of whom were participating in their first-ever election. My thanks to all DJJ staff members who worked to make this a meaningful experience for our residents.
Bon Air JCC Election Results:
TOTAL VOTES CAST: 81
U.S. House of Representatives - Fourth District
U.S. House of Representatives - Seventh District
Constitutional Amendment #1
Constitutional Amendment #2
Over the past years, there has been much debate and concern raised with regard to having law enforcement officers assigned to schools as school resource officers (SROs). Proponents of SROs, whose appearance in schools across the country coincided with high profile school shootings, believe they protect the school community from dangers both within and without. Those opposed to SROs say that their presence in schools has contributed to the disproportionate confinement of minority youth and that by arresting minority youth for minor offenses, it gives them a criminal record that will follow them the rest of their lives. Opponents suggest that police officers in schools are responsible for a “school to prison pipeline.”
As we move into the General Assembly season, with police and criminal justice reform legislation possibly being introduced, media representatives and advocates have expressed considerable interest in Virginia’s data regarding complaints by SROs. In response to several requests, our Research and Data Units began collecting and analyzing DJJ’s data with regard to SRO complaints. Our data generally suggest that our agency’s work to increase diversions has continued to reduce deeper system involvement and school-related complaints overall.
As DJJ continues to focus on increasing diversions as part of the agency’s Transformation Plan, our data show the petition rate for complaints from SROs has shifted substantially over the past four fiscal years, decreasing from 47.8% in FY 2017 to 31.2% in FY 2020. Less than half (38.6%) of juvenile intake complaints from SROs were petitioned as the initial intake decision, compared to 65% from other complainants. This pattern in petition rate differences occurred across age and racial groups and offense severities. For example, the petition rate was lower for felony complaints from SROs compared to felony complaints from other sources.
The most frequent types of offenses from SROs were Class 1 Misdemeanor Assault, Class 1 Misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct, Non-Class 1 Misdemeanor Narcotics, and the status offense of purchase or possession of tobacco. These types of offenses are eligible for diversion and intake officers are encouraged to use diversion plans for resolution. New procedures and resources put in place throughout our transformation guide CSUs to always consider diversion as an option for eligible youth. Diversion has been shown to be an effective intervention to keep low-risk youth in their homes and communities. This seems to be evident as diversion plans for complaints from SROs have slightly higher success rates (87.8%) compared to other complainants (83.4%) across all offense severities.
There is still work to be done. Many of our Court Service Unit directors are involved in conversations with stakeholders in their local communities. There continues to be a need to look at complaints through the lens of racial disproportionality. Juvenile intake complaints from SROs were slightly less racially disproportionate than complaints from other sources, though Black youth were still disproportionately represented.
As we move into the 2020-2021 school year and look back at the previous school year, our data will most likely look much different due to the impacts of COVID 19 and virtual schooling. Our FY 21 data will most likely not reflect “typical” school-based trends nor be able to tell us the impact of recent legislation related to disorderly conduct in schools.
I remain committed to leading DJJ in its effort to provide the right interventions to the right youth at the right time. We remain committed to our guiding principles of Safety, Connection, Fairness and Purpose and working with our partners and stakeholders to provide the best possible services to our youth, families and communities.
For a complete picture of DJJ’s SRO complaint data, click HERE.
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 email@example.com 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.
DJJ – A Time For Action Part I (link)
DJJ – A Time For Action Part II (link)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
DJJ – un llamado a la acción (Parte 1) (link)
DJJ – un llamado a la acción (Parte 2) (link)
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