RISE for Youth Coordinator Valerie Slater released the following statement after the Chesapeake Planning Commission unanimously voted to deny (at 5:11:00) the application for a new youth prison:
“On August 8th, the Chesapeake City Council moved to delay a vote on a new proposed youth prison. This week, the Chesapeake Planning Commission held a vote, rejecting the application for the proposed prison project and will recommend to the Chesapeake City Council that they also reject the application on November 21st. This was an important step towards rejecting the outdated model of youth prisons and building a true continuum of care supporting all juvenile justice system involved youth in Virginia.
The proposed new youth prison would affect not only Chesapeake, but the surrounding communities of Hampton, Portsmouth, Newport News, Virginia Beach, and the Eastern shore as well. Children from these communities would be sent all the way to the proposed youth prison in a remote location in Chesapeake – placing an unreasonable travel burden on their families and placing them farther away from the support they need. Yet, since the youth prison was proposed in 2015, there have only been five documented public meetings, all in Chesapeake. To counter this troubling lack of official engagement, RISE for Youth has stepped in to educate the wider community through visioning sessions and town halls, to gather the input of impacted families. RISE for Youth will present all of this critical information to Chesapeake city leaders ahead of the November 21st vote, so that they can hear exactly why impacted communities agree that building a new youth prison is the wrong approach.
While the planning commission’s vote was a powerful first step in the right direction for our children, the Chesapeake City Council will have the final say on the proposed new youth prison next month. RISE for Youth believes the juvenile justice system should strive to keep youth at home with their families with appropriate services and supports, and youth should only be removed from home as a last resort. When youth are removed, the system should keep them as close to their families and support network as possible. Secure placements should be small – no more than 24 beds – therapeutic in nature and an integrated part of a robust continuum of care. We know that city council leaders will take into account the planning commission’s recommendation, community feedback, and the overwhelming evidence that clearly shows community-based alternatives are less costly and better at rehabilitating our young people than old and ineffective youth prisons.”
RISE for Youth is a statewide, nonpartisan campaign coalition whose central goal is to develop a continuum of community-based alternatives to incarceration that will keep juvenile justice system involved youth closer to their homes and support networks while making our communities safer. For more information on RISE for Youth, visit: www.riseforyouth.org and follow @RISEforYouth.