Juvenile offenders are required to follow strict legal process that involves court proceedings, sentencing and rehabilitation services. The procedural process of the juvenile system in Virginia is designed to ensure that juveniles receive the appropriate punishment and support after arrest. The ultimate goal of the juvenile process is to make sure that the juvenile avoids repeat offenses that may lead them back into the juvenile system. Thus, it is important that parents, educators and juvenile corrections work together to develop a feasible and effective plan to prevent repeat offenses and provide juveniles with adequate resources and assistance. Essentially, the juvenile process serves as a legal guideline for juvenile offenders, victims and their families to help guide juveniles and ensure that they are able to effectively improve their lives and become productive citizens.

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The Department of Juvenile Justice in Virginia is a sequential process that ensures that juveniles are appropriately handled for their specific offenses. For instance, Xander, a 17-year-old African American male is a gang member who has been involved in a number of prior offenses since the age of 13 including drug possession and breaking and entering. He has pled guilty to possession of a concealed weapon and has been placed on probation twice. After being reported to the police by his mother, he will enter the juvenile system and an intake officer must decide the next step for the teen based on the severity of the charge and his prior offenses. Based on Xander’s previous offenses, more than likely the intake officer will decide to detain him.

Once the decision for arrest is made, a detention hearing will be held within 72 hours in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, which will evaluate Xander’s offenses and determine the need for detention. If found guilty at the adjudicatory hearing, the next step will be the dispositional hearing to determine the appropriate sanctions such as fines or restitution fees or other services such as shelter, care and community programs. Once Xander is turned over to the juvenile justice system, he will receive psychological and medical evaluations. After the evaluations, he will be placed in a juvenile correction center where he will receive 24-hour supervision along with other services and treatment programs.

After Xander completes his time at the juvenile correction center, he will either be released or placed on parole. Based on his prior offenses and his pattern of re-offending, Xander may be placed on parole to ensure that the does not become a threat to his community. Thus, he will be required to complete community programs and receives local services to ensure a smooth transition into the community. Thus, the juvenile justice system serves as a guiding process to make sure that juveniles are handled properly and receive the punishment and resources needed to improve their situations. Essentially, the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice includes a combination of helpful resources and programs to help minimize repeat offenses and ensure that juveniles receive the support, education and guidance essential to their overall development process.

Letter to Judge:
Dear Judge,
Based on Xander’s previous offenses, we are committed to minimizing the risk of reoffending by utilizing a combination of counseling, tutoring and outreach programs. Xander has expressed deep regret for his offenses, and he would like to make every effort to improve his behavior and receive an education. Although he understands that he is completely responsible for his actions, please consider Xander’s living conditions that poses challenges for him. Growing up in a single-parent, low-income household, Xander only has one working parent, his mother, who works two jobs in order to provide for the family. Thus, with an absent father, Xander has been seeking attention and refuge in the streets, which led to his gang affiliation. As a gang member, he has been involved in crimes and other petty offenses, which placed him in the juvenile system. As a result, his grades began to decline, which ultimately led him to drop out of high school. Thus, Xander is faced with a number extenuating factors that contribute to his perpetual criminal behavior patterns.

Thus, through counseling, Xander will receive the support and guidance that he needs to improve his mental and emotional state. Family counseling sessions with his mother will help to evaluate his behavioral issues and determine the best course of action for improvement. Making sure to develop a strong relationship with his mother will be extremely beneficial and essential to Xander’s growth. Thus, through counseling sessions, they will be able to build better communication and work together to ensure that Xander receives the love and support necessary to prevent re-offenses. Also, tutoring services will provide Xander with the education and knowledge that he needs to pass his G.E.D. test in order to further his education. Thus, we will work to make sure that he receives the basic skills needed for his G.E.D certification and make sure that he is ready for job placement.

Also, community youth outreach programs will enable Xander to develop positive relationships with other peers. He will be able to develop communication skills and learn how to interact in a positive way, which will be beneficial for him. Thus, this will help him to build better relationships with other community members, which will help to minimize offenses and negative behavior. Essentially, we will provide a strong combination of resources and programs for Xander to make him more productive. Thus, please consider Xander’s hardships and the corrections plan and reduce sentencing to allow him an opportunity to receive the education and support that he needs to transition back into his community.

  • Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice. (2016). The Juvenile Justice Process. http://www.djj.virginia.gov.