RD683 - Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice Transformation Plan 2019 Update

Executive Summary:

Nearly five years ago, Virginia’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) set out to rethink how Virginia responds to court-involved youth. What had been a system reliant on detention, incarceration, and punishment could transform, with the right investments, into a system of rehabilitation, personalized treatment, and community support. In 2016, with the General Assembly’s support, DJJ released a Transformation Plan to reallocate resources to a wider range of rehabilitative services. The plan aimed to use evidence-based practices to more effectively serve youth, their families, and communities and centered around three core operational strategies: (1) reduce the use of juvenile correctional centers by transforming intake, probation, and commitment practices; (2) reform supervision, rehabilitation, and treatment practices for youth in custody; and (3) replace large, outdated juvenile correctional centers with support from a statewide continuum of alternative placements and evidence-based services. A new goal of (4) sustain was later added to focus on continuing progress toward the transformation goals.

Due to the closure of three secure facilities since 2014, funds have been reallocated in order to provide services to youth across the continuum of risk levels and treatment needs. This individualized approach to treatment means DJJ spends less money on often ineffective youth incarceration and more money on treatment programs, community-based supervision and engagement, and diversion programs. DJJ has also used savings to invest in resources such as training opportunities, leadership development, and building a quality assurance unit. Currently, DJJ is focusing an increasing amount of effort on sustaining the changes implemented since the introduction of the Transformation Plan.

Since launching the plan, DJJ has achieved progress and successes in all four goals of the Transformation Plan. Fiscal year (FY) 2019 provided several accomplishments discussed throughout this report, including the following highlights:


• The juvenile justice system is experiencing all-time lows. Between FY 2010 and FY 2019, juvenile intake cases decreased 39.8%, new probation cases decreased 51.7%, detainments decreased 43.6%, and direct care admissions decreased 44.5%.

• After DJJ’s first intake summit and a revised procedure, diversion plans increased from 15.5% of intake complaints in FY 2018 to 19.0% in FY 2019. Successful diversion plans increased from 12.1% of intake complaints in FY 2018 to 14.3% in FY 2019.

• The 12-month rearrest rate for system-involved youth (first-time diversions, probation placements, and direct care releases) decreased from 25.1% in FY 2014 to 21.2% in FY 2018, translating to 850 fewer youth rearrested.

• As more low risk youth are diverted or handled informally, youth placed on probation or committed are at higher risk for reoffending than in previous years. Rearrest rates for firsttime diversions, probation, and moderate risk committed youth decreased. Rates for high risk committed youth increased slightly, suggesting these youth continue to face significant challenges and require more intensive and therapeutic services.

• DJJ’s continuum of services has expanded to over 160 unduplicated direct service providers; 1,984 youth were referred to DJJ’s regional service coordinators, who approved/authorized 4,239 services during FY 2019.

• Access to Functional Family Therapy and Multi-Systemic Therapy programs expanded, reaching 97% of cities and counties throughout the Commonwealth. Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and High Fidelity Wraparound also expanded, with availability in more than 70% of localities.

• As of July 2019, alternative placements housed 44.4% of the direct care population. More than half of youth (56.0%) released from direct care in FY 2019 received treatment in these types of placements instead of a juvenile correctional center.

• DJJ introduced a new structured decision making tool, the Standardized Disposition Matrix, for probation officers and court stakeholder to provide consistent and data driven disposition recommendation to courts.


• The therapeutic Community Treatment Model and other programming improved youth and staff safety. Between FY 2016 and FY 2019, rates of aggressive incidents at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center decreased 65.1%, workers’ compensation claims decreased 46.2%, and costs associated with workers’ compensation claims decreased 56.2%.

• Post-secondary college and enrichment opportunities expanded at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center due to digital curriculum delivery; enrollment increased by 78%, resulting in 288 industry credentials/certifications earned for the 2018-2019 school year.

• Family engagement and post-secondary educational opportunities increased in community placement programs, DJJ’s detention-based treatment placements for committed youth.

• DJJ continued free transportation services to promote visitation with committed youth; 1,691 individuals participated in the free transportation program in FY 2019, an increase from 1,193 riders in FY 2018.

• DJJ’s reentry advocates submit Medicaid applications for eligible youth prior to release, resulting in more timely processing to prevent gaps in coverage.


• In addition to Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center, treatment placement options for committed youth include 10 community placement programs, eight detention reentry programs, nine residential treatment facilities, and eight group homes, for a total of 35 noncorrectional center treatment placement options for youth.

• DJJ has safely transitioned all committed females from Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center. As of August 2019, all committed females receive treatment at Northern Virginia Community Placement Program, Merrimac Community Placement Program, or another alternative placement.

• DJJ continues the pursuit to build two smaller, treatment-oriented facilities, ideally in the Eastern and Central areas in order to house youth closer to their home communities.


• DJJ partnered with Vanderbilt University to bring the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol to Virginia; DJJ also partnered with Child Trends to evaluate DJJ’s service delivery model and reentry services.

• DJJ completed staff composition and compensation reviews and added new training offerings and coaching services to support and retain qualified staff.

• DJJ provided evidence-based trainings to community placement programs and community-based providers and assisted in developing performance measures and building continuous quality improvement plans.