Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center Study

Juvenile incarceration rates across the nation have continued to decrease over the past 10 years, including at the facility that serves the City of Alexandria, the City of Falls Church, and Arlington County. A comprehensive study is evaluating what changes, if any, could be made to the Center to make it more efficient, while still meeting the needs of the juvenile population.

Page updated on Nov 6, 2020 at 10:09 AM

What’s New

A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center & Alternatives was completed by The Moss Group in 2020.



Background

Juvenile incarceration rates across the nation have continued to decrease over the past 10 years, including at the facility that serves the City of Alexandria, the City of Falls Church, and Arlington County. A study by Washington, D.C.-based independent criminal justice contractor, The Moss Group, evaluated what changes, if any, could be made to the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center (Center) to make it more efficient while still meeting the needs of the juvenile population. The study included researching possible alternatives such as closing the center due to underutilization and detaining youth in another center in Northern Virginia.

A vital component of the study included opportunities for stakeholders in each of the three participating jurisdictions to provide input at community meetings in November 2019, and through the use of an online survey. 

The Center is a 70-bed, secure juvenile detention facility located at 200 S. Whiting St. in Alexandria. It is regulated by the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and is shared and operated by the City of Alexandria, the City of Falls Church, and Arlington County through a Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Commission, comprised of five appointed members.

The Center serves youth placed in the facility by order of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court or the Circuit Court. Typically, these youth are ages 16 or 17; have multiple misdemeanor or felony offenses; are at moderate or high risk; and have been determined by the court to present a significant danger to themselves or others, often having significant behavioral health, family, child welfare, and/or educational needs. In addition to providing pre- and post-depositional detention services and basic and educational services, the Center provides DJJ with centralized intake and community-placement programs, which uses the surplus capacity of the facility and reduces costs to participating jurisdictions.

Following a national trend, the use of the Center by all jurisdictions has steadily declined over the last decade, with a reduction of over 70% between Fiscal Years 2006 and 2019. This decline is related to several positive community trends, including a decrease in juvenile crime and increased diversion; increased use of alternatives to secure detention; and greater use of Structured Detention Assessment Instruments.

The participating jurisdictions requested a regional review of juvenile detention services, given that utilization rates for the Center have dramatically declined. In addition, fixed costs associated with operating the secure facility have led to an increase in per diem costs.

For more information about the Center, read the Fact Sheet.


Process

The Moss Group began the study on July 29, 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a lengthy delay in the presentation of the report and its findings and recommendations.

The study included:

  • A historical review and compilation of documents related to the Center’s structure, operation, and ownership or control of assets.

  • Analysis of national, state and local best practices related to juvenile justice and incarceration; and evidence-based, cost-efficient detention programming.

  • Analysis of existing Center operations and potential efficiencies.

  • Evaluation of the potential for further regionalization of juvenile detention services (for example, with existing jurisdictions and Fairfax County), to include impact on youth, families, communities and stakeholders, cost, education, re-entry, and transportation.

  • The provision of a comparative financial and service delivery analysis of the two proposed options: 1) continued operation of the center by existing jurisdictions, versus 2) further regionalization -- closing the center due to underutilization and detaining youth in another center in Northern Virginia.

  • Recommendations and full report.

As part of this study, community meetings and an online survey were conducted in November 2019 to provide information to the public and gather community and stakeholder input.



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