Students ask Va. lawmakers to consider changes to the Department of Juvenile Justice

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia lawmakers on Tuesday heard from a group of young students who want to reform the juvenile justice system.

Students like 8th Grader Kasia Carrington, who says, “we are trying to make a difference for the kids who get sentenced, that they would go to camps instead of going to jail.”

They’re part of youth advocacy group RISE for Youth, which wants the Department of Juvenile Justice to consider the impact to youth and their families when planning detention centers.

They also want to see more community-based alternatives, so kids who end up in the system can, at least, be closer to their families.

“We want the kids to be closer to their families, make sure they have the contact with their family because that might help them to change their behavior and mind to do good for the community,” Carrington said.

They also want better rehabilitation programs put in place.

“Right now in Virginia, we spend over $100,000 to incarcerate one youth for one year and the outcomes are pretty bad,” Jeree Thomas, an attorney with the Just Children Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center says.

Corrine Tucker, who works with he Youth Life Foundation, says, “we’re hoping for systems that will help students grow instead of just punishing them when they get in trouble with the law.”

According to RISE for Youth, 75 percent of kids who go through the juvenile justice system find themselves back behind bars within three years. With their efforts, the students lobbying today for changes to that system are hoping to turn that statistic around.

Carrington offers words of hope, saying, “Just because you committed a crime, you really don’t deserve to be in jail for like, your life. You have a chance, you have a choice and this camp will give you another opportunity to make a difference, to turn around and do something good.”

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