The House and Senate recently passed their amendments to the Governor’s proposed two-year budget for Virginia. Both proposals put funding for new youth prisons in the budget. RISE for Youth continues to oppose the construction of new, large youth prisons. Of grave concern is the House proposal to make continued investment in Virginia’s continuum of community-based alternatives contingent on building a new youth prison on the site of the old Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center. The launch of DJJ’s continuum of services and the closing of Beaumont last year were milestones in the transformation of Virginia’s juvenile justice system. That important progress should not be undermined.
The communities most touched by the youth justice system have repeatedly asked – through town halls, protests, and a report illustrating alternative solutions – to have a seat at the table as our leaders discuss next steps to ensure we end up with a system that will finally address the needs of our youth and communities. But these budget proposals don’t reflect our voice. Instead of fully evaluating the effectiveness of youth prisons and learning more from formerly incarcerated youth, their families, and community advocates on what would be best for young people, lawmakers are poised to spend significant amounts of money to construct facilities that will have long-term consequences on Virginia’s ability to make needed progress to truly transform the juvenile justice system.
RISE for Youth remains committed to working with lawmakers to arrive at a final version of the state budget that continues to make strides to transform Virginia’s juvenile justice system that has been broken for far too long.