RD179 - Study of Juvenile Offender Reentry in the Commonwealth

Executive Summary:
The majority of juveniles entering Virginia’s juvenile justice system have complex needs, including mental health and substance abuse. These juveniles may have already been receiving services from multiple systems, such as child welfare, special education, mental health and juvenile justice. In Fiscal Year 2009, the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) received 85,578 intake complaints, 16,626 new probation cases and 17,202 pre-dispositional placements. (*1) During this 12-month period, 819 juveniles were committed to DJJ. (*2) Virginia spends over $120,000 per year to confine a youth in a juvenile correctional center. (*3) (*4)

According to DJJ, the majority of juvenile offenders placed in confinement will eventually be released into the community; the percentage of juveniles who return to their communities is close to 100 percent. (*5) Thus, it is important to establish approaches that enhance successful community reintegration for juvenile offenders. The fundamental goal of successful community reintegration is that juveniles not reoffend as they begin building a foundation for a successful and productive future. In keeping with that goal, the Commission on Youth conducted a one-year study to examine challenges confronting the juvenile as he or she returns to the community, to identify barriers to successful reentry, and to recommend system improvements.

At the Commission on Youth’s April 21, 2010 meeting, the Commission adopted the work plan for this study. As part of the study, the Commission established an Advisory Group comprised of representatives from the Offices of the Secretary of Public Safety, Secretary of Education and Secretary of Health and Human Resources. Virginia’s Prisoner Re-entry Coordinator, juvenile justice officials, parent representatives, local school administrators, behavioral and substance abuse providers and members from Virginia’s law enforcement were also included in this effort. In addition, business officials, representatives from Virginia’s universities and the faith-based community also participated. The Advisory Group established Subcommittees to focus on the specific issues inherent in juvenile reentry and recidivism:

1. Community and Family;
2. Education and Workforce Development;
3. Mental Health and Substance Abuse; and
4. Special Populations

The Advisory Group and its Subcommittees assisted the Commission by identifying key barriers to successful reentry. The problem of recidivism was evaluated both at the national and state levels, and pertinent legislation was highlighted. Commission staff conducted an in-depth assessment of Virginia’s reentry programs and identified best practices for reentry programs and successful programs in other states, such as those in Missouri, New York, California and Pennsylvania. Presentations on these issues were given at Advisory Group and Commission on Youth meetings. In addition, the Commission on Youth and the Advisory Group worked collaboratively with the Governor’s Prisoner Re-entry Council, established pursuant to Executive Order 11. Commission staff serves as a member of the Juvenile Committee for the Prisoner Reentry Council.

At the November 15, 2010 meeting, the Commission on Youth approved the following recommendations, which are organized here by Subcommittee focus issue:


Recommendation 1:
Request the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) review the Juvenile Correctional Centers’ (JCCs) visitation guidelines to ensure that they are applied consistently. Request DJJ create a handbook to ensure that visitation guidelines and identification requirements are shared with the juvenile’s family/caregivers in the mailed orientation package.

Recommendation 2:
Request DJJ continue to allow programs such as the “Family Link” Video Visitation Program to go statewide by using community and faith-based partnerships. A report shall be provided to the Commission on Youth prior to the 2012 General Assembly Session.

Recommendation 3:
Request DJJ review the JCC visitation guidelines to include specific parameters for the (i) identification and (ii) assessment for suitability of non-immediate family members and special visitors (e.g., coaches, neighbors, and family friends) to ensure that individuals who have served, or will serve as a positive support or role models to the juvenile during the time of commitment and upon reentry to the community, are approved for visitation at the JCC.

Recommendation 4:
Request DJJ, in conjunction with appropriate mentoring partnerships, where feasible, incorporate in the development of a juvenile’s reentry plan a mentoring component for the purpose of assessing whether the juvenile is appropriate to participate in a mentoring program. Virginia's universities, colleges, and community college systems shall be included as a resource in this effort.

Recommendation 5:
Support the Workforce Investment Boards (WIB) and WIB’s Youth Councils’ efforts in completing the Youth Mapping of community services and request they share mapping information, once completed, with the Virginia’s Prisoner and Juvenile Offender Reentry’s Council.

Recommendation 6:
Request that the Secretary of Health and Human Resources investigate expanding Virginia 2-1-1 in the development of a reentry mapping network for Virginia. Other public and privately-operated information and referral systems, such as Virginiahousingsearch.com and socialserve.org, will be asked to participate in this effort.

Recommendation 7:
Request the Secretary of Public Safety recommend including a gradual release component in the Virginia Prisoner and Juvenile Offender Re-entry Council’s long-term strategic plan, which is to be submitted to the Governor. Such a component will include an assessment for qualifying juveniles and will allow qualifying juveniles to step-down to graduated programs 30 to 60 days prior to their release. The component will also enable DJJ to establish partnerships with private and/or public providers to offer identified step-down services to qualifying juveniles. (Referred to the Governor’s Prisoner Re-entry Council)

Recommendation 8:
Request the Governor include funding in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget for additional transitional living and halfway houses for juvenile offenders. (Adopted 10/20/10)

Recommendation 9:
Introduce a budget amendment to fund additional transitional living and halfway houses for juvenile offenders. (Referred to the Governor’s Prisoner Re-entry Council)

Recommendation 10:
Introduce a budget amendment to provide state funding for locally-administered Post-Dispositional programs. (Referred to the Governor’s Prisoner Re-entry Council)

Recommendation 11:
Request the Virginia Housing Commission, with assistance from the Office of the Attorney General and in conjunction with the Commission on Youth, assess local housing authorities’ application of laws pertaining to criminal background checks to determine their impact upon juveniles returning to their communities and whether current practices need to be modified. Strategies, such an education component of the importance of reentry of juveniles returning to their communities and the differences in juvenile and adult offenders should be developed to share with local housing authorities. This information would be shared with the Governor’s Prisoner and Juvenile Offender Re-entry Council.


Recommendation 12:
Request (or support) the Department of Correctional Education (DCE) integrate the provisions set forth in the Department of Education’s Academic and Career Plan (ACP) into the juveniles’ educational program.

Recommendation 13:
Request DCE, in conjunction with DJJ and Department of Education (DOE), study the feasibility of continuing the juvenile’s education track, as established at the local juvenile detention center, at the Reception and Diagnostic Center through web-based technologies and/or other strategies that incorporate the Standards of Learning (SOLs). (Referred to the Governor’s Prisoner Re-entry Council)

Recommendation 14:
Request DOE, DJJ, and DCE conduct a survey to ascertain commonly-encountered barriers to reenrollment. Request that the identified issues and recommended solutions be shared with the Commission on Youth prior to the 2012 General Assembly Session.

Recommendation 15:
Request DOE report school completion and dropout rates for juveniles who have been committed to DJJ or who have been sentenced to a Post-Dispositional placement.

Recommendation 16:
Request DJJ, Department of Social Services (DSS), Office of Comprehensive Services (OCS), DOE, and local key stakeholders review current guidance and develop or revise guidance and procedures across state agencies to ensure that JCCs include LDSS and the Family Assessment and Planning Teams (FAPTs) in the juvenile’s reentry planning and educational transitional planning. Guidance should include the local Department of Social Services’ (LDSS) involvement in initial case planning at the Reception and Diagnostic Center (RDC) to clarify the long-term permanency plan for the juvenile and how the JCC can support that plan throughout the juvenile’s commitment to DJJ.

Recommendation 17:
Request the DOE/DSS education committee on the federal "Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008" involve DJJ and DCE to coordinate implementation of the guidance on educational placement of youth returning from DJJ to the LDSS in DJJ discharge planning. The committee should also review DSS, DOE and DJJ Code sections, identifying inconsistencies related to the educational needs and placements of youth, and provide recommendations for legislative changes to the Commission on Youth.

Recommendation 18:
Amend § 16.1-293 of the Code of Virginia to require that the court services unit (CSU) consult with the local department of social services 90 days prior (instead of four weeks) to the person’s release from commitment on parole supervision concerning return of the person to the locality and the placement of the person’s terms and conditions of parole. Further, amend this section of the Code to require the JCC and LDSS to work collaboratively in developing a transition plan from the JCC to the LDSS.

Recommendation 19:
Amend § 66-25.1 of the Code of Virginia to expand the membership of the Virginia Juvenile Enterprise Committee to include the Office of the Secretary of Education, Virginia Community College System (VCCS), representatives from the "Workforce Investment Act" (WIA) and the local WIBs, potential employers of juvenile offenders, and the Department of Correctional Education.

Recommendation 20:
Amend § 66-25.1 of the Code of Virginia to expand the role of the Virginia Juvenile Enterprise to include developing a plan for the creation of a network of employers willing to hire juvenile offenders reentering their communities.

Recommendation 21:
Request the VCCS and the DCE to create educational materials to be shared with juvenile offenders about the effectiveness of Virginia’s Middle College Program.

Recommendation 22:
Support the current level of funding for Virginia’s Middle College Program.

Recommendation 23:
Request the Secretary of Public Safety, the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, and the VCCS/WIA develop a strategy to communicate with business community information about the Workforce Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC).

Recommendation 24:
Request DJJ investigate the feasibly, need and cost to expand the Youth Industries’ programs to increase the number of juveniles participating in Career and Technical Education Programs and increase the numbers of programs offered. Request DJJ develop a Youth Industries plan that focuses on areas of professional credentials, using the Virginia Employment Commission’s forecasts of future employment needs. The plan will also encourage DJJ to allow, when appropriate, youth to acquire certifications and/or licenses while under direct care to increase the likelihood of gainful employment.

Recommendation 25:
Request the Virginia State Crime Commission convene a workgroup of impacted agencies and stakeholders to review existing juvenile record requirements and establish guidelines for the protection of, as well as for the purging of juvenile records after the juvenile’s adjudication date. This will include establishing a process for purging juvenile records from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) system.

Recommendation 26:
Request the VCCS transmit consistent guidelines to Virginia community colleges regarding admission policies for juvenile offenders reentering their communities. Such guidelines will also address the protection of juvenile records.


Recommendation 27:
Request Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) develop a plan addressing systemic, legal, and budgetary impact of suspending, rather than terminating, Medicaid for juveniles.

Recommendation 28:
Introduce a budget amendment, with necessary funding, to modify Virginia Medicaid requirements to allow for the suspension of Medicaid benefits for juveniles who are committed to DJJ.

Recommendation 29:
Request that DMAS, DSS, and DJJ develop guidelines to make local DSS’ reenrollment practices more consistent. Guidelines would clarify which agency is responsible for which role.

Recommendation 30:
Request DJJ, in conjunction with DSS and DMAS, to implement the procedures set forth in the DSS eligibility guidance manuals to begin the process of eligibility determinations for Medicaid 45-days prior to release.

Recommendation 31:
Request the Office of Comprehensive Services for At-Risk Youth and Families examine the feasibility and cost of including juvenile offenders with mental health needs as a mandated population under the Comprehensive Services Act.

Recommendation 32:
Request the Secretary of Health and Human Services establish guidelines to encourage the use of telemedicine in Virginia localities not having psychiatric services.


Recommendation 33:
Request the State Executive Council research whether foster care prevention services through the Comprehensive Services Act can be accessed for juveniles returning to their families to assist in their reunification.

Recommendation 34:
Request DSS investigate the feasibility of legislative changes needed and the fiscal impact of allowing youth to remain in foster care until age 21 in order to receive independent living services.

Recommendation 35:
Request DJJ create a resource guide for juveniles and their families, which identifies successful programs, which are gender-specific and involve the entire family.

Recommendation 36:
Support DJJ’s current program activities that provide services to committed youth who are parents and DJJ’s efforts to address generational issues, which affect incarcerated parents, particularly mothers and their daughters.

Recommendation 37:
Request the Special Advisor to the Governor on Children’s Services study the feasibility of providing community supports to kinship care providers of juvenile offenders in the child transformation/kinship care activities.


Recommendation 38:
Support DJJ’s efforts to develop and implement a singular reentry plan for the juveniles committed to the Department.

Recommendation 39:
Support the Office of the Attorney General’s Virginia Rules Program, which educates teens about Virginia laws and how these laws impact their day-to-day lives.

Recommendation 40:
Request the Office of the Attorney General create a resource guide, including a web-based guide, explaining the terminology associated with the juvenile justice system in Virginia.
(*1) Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice. (2009). "Data Resource Guide for Fiscal Year 2009." [Online]. Available: http://www.djj.virginia.gov/About_Us/Administrative_Units/Research_and_Evaluation_Unit/pdf/FY2009_DRG.pdf. [June 2011].
(*2) Ibid.
(*3) Ibid.
(*4) This amount includes the Department of Correctional Education per capita costs.
(*5) Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice. (n.d.). "Reentry webpage." [Online]. Available: http://www.djj.virginia.gov/Initiatives/Reentry.aspx. [June 2011].