Chesapeake, Va. – In response to the Department of Juvenile Justice’s recommendation to build a brand-new 60-bed youth prison in Chesapeake, RISE for Youth issued the following statement calling on the Chesapeake City Council to take a stand on behalf of the best interests of children and their community by rejecting the proposed youth prison during its August 8th and August 15th city council meetings.
“RISE for Youth urges Chesapeake City Council to keep the best interests of their community and their community’s youth at the center of their actions. The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) recommends building a new youth prison – which wastes taxpayer dollars on an approach that fails to help kids learn better, address maladaptive behaviors, or keep neighborhoods safe – that is wrong for Chesapeake, wrong for all other Hampton Roads communities and wrong for Virginia.
A new youth prison in Chesapeake would negatively impact children, community safety, and the economy, which is why this decision can’t be taken lightly. When RISE for Youth hosted a town hall in Chesapeake last month to give community members a chance to express their needs and perspectives, we learned that many community members were unaware of plans to build a new youth prison in the area. We also learned that the people of Chesapeake agree with statewide polls showing that Virginians favor closing youth prisons and reinvesting in education and other community-based alternatives.
Chesapeake communities with the highest youth incarceration rates need and deserve more information and an opportunity to help shape what accountability looks like for their youth. A more transparent and robust conversation with these communities, especially the parents and families of incarcerated youth, would lead to a better plan. The evidence clearly shows that community-based alternatives are less costly and better at rehabilitating young people and keeping neighborhoods safe.
RISE supports aspects of the DJJ plan that call for expanding access to alternatives while keeping youth near their homes and the communities that support them. And we wholeheartedly agree that placements in secure facilities should always be a last resort. The proposed Chesapeake youth prison ultimately fails to reflect these shared priorities and does not reflect best practices in the juvenile justice field. The evidence indicates that secure facilities should have fewer than 24 beds and should keep youth close to home and involved with their communities. The 920 Minuteman Road plan is too large, far away from many high-incarcerating communities across Hampton Roads, and would isolate youth just as much as the recently closed outdated Beaumont juvenile prison.
RISE for Youth urges DJJ to go back to the planning table and work closely with impacted communities to consider a much broader range of options and facilities to house critical services for youth. Last month’s closing of the Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Facility was an important step in the right direction. The proposed youth prison in Chesapeake would be a major step backward and would neither help youth nor keep communities safe.”
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.