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Unlocking the Truth: Real Stories About the Trial and Incarceration of Youth as Adults in Virginia

NCJ Number
Kate Duvall
Date Published
November 2010
28 pages
This paper presents stories of how the practice of trying and incarcerating youth as adults in Virginia has impacted the youth, their families, and their communities.
The current report was preceded by another report that examined Virginia's mid-1990s legislative changes, which significantly curtailed the decisionmaking power of juvenile court judges, while promoting overly broad, unbalanced, unfair, and ineffective policies that have led to the trial and incarceration of youth as adults. The stories presented in the current paper show the need to reform Virginia's system of trying and sentencing youth as adults, which involves their incarceration in adult facilities. Virginia's current system unnecessarily imposes adult felony convictions at an early age, which significantly reduces the range of a youth's opportunities for subsequent employment, which can lead to future criminal behavior and self-defeating lifestyles. This is confirmed by research from both the Federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Families of these youth also suffer when their children become angry, frustrated, and fearful because of the limitations that a felony conviction imposes on their lives as they transition into adulthood. This paper concludes that Virginia needs a better system for identifying youth whose offenses and criminal history are so serious that they require the same type of trial and, if convicted, the same type of sentence as adults who have committed the same type of offense. Five recommendations are offered for achieving this goal. 22 notes