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One state lawmaker hopes to create his own juvenile justice work group after governor's veto

Patrick Hope
Steve Helber
Virginia Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, listens to a floor speech during the House session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. The delegate hopes to create a juvenile justice work group on his own after the governor vetoed his legislation.

Advocates for reforming juvenile justice are regrouping after a veto from the governor.

Should Virginia's juvenile justice system be centered around law enforcement or social services? That’s a question at the heart of the debate that prompted a bill from Delegate Patrick Hope, a Democrat from Arlington. The bill would have put together a work group to investigate. But the governor vetoed the bill, leaving Hope mulling over the idea of putting together his own work group – asking the agencies involved to voluntarily cooperate.

"And that's my hope and my desire is that will happen and that we will have a process notwithstanding the governor's veto that there will be a willingness from the agencies to cooperate and to provide input into determining whether this is the best way to serve our youth," Hope says. "It may not be."

Valerie Slater at Rise for Youth says the best way to serve youth is moving the Department of Juvenile Justice from Public Safety and Homeland Security to Health and Human Resources.

"There are other states that have already done this," Slater explains. "Utah, Arkansas — and they have the results to demonstrate that it is an effective practice to take a public health approach to public safety rather than a law and order approach."

In his veto message, Governor Glenn Youngkin says if Delegate Hope really wants to move juvenile justice he should just introduce a bill to do that instead of putting together a work group. But Hope says he does not want to make the move unless all the parties involved have had an opportunity to take a look at all the issues first, which he's hoping to do on his own before the next General Assembly session.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.