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Virginia's New Guidelines Call for Shorter Lengths of Stay

August 12, 2015
Zoe Schein

On August 3, Virginia’s Board of Justice voted in favor of new length of stay guidelines for young people confined in Virginia’s youth justice system. The new guidelines reduce the amount of time young people are required to spend in lockup, and provide guidance for length of stay to be determined based on individual needs and risk. The new guidelines take into account data from Virginia’s Department of Juvenile Justice, which indicates that the average length of stay for youth in the state was more than double the national average, as well as the average of six “comparable states.”

“The adoption of the revised length of stay guidelines is a step in the right direction for the youth of Virginia,” said Kate Duvall, an attorney for the JustChildren program of the Legal Aid Justice Center in Virginia (an NJJN member).  “The longest lengths of stay used to be 24 to 36 months, while under the new guidelines, the longest lengths of stay are 9 to 15 months.” Such reduced stays in lockup are in step with the latest national research, which has generally concluded that incarceration of young people does not reduce recidivism, and can in many cases be counterproductive. The new guidelines aim to improve outcomes for young people by achieving a “balance between public safety, personal accountability, and competency development.”

The Board’s vote marked the first significant campaign victory for YouthFirst! partners Legal Aid Justice Center, The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, Voices for Virginia’s Children, and Justice Fellowship since campaign planning began in March 2015.

 Read the full text of Virginia’s new length of stay guidelines here.


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