Commonwealth creating changes to the juvenile system

ROANOKE, VA - According to youth.gov, it's estimated every year that 2.1 million youth under the age of 18 are arrested in the U.S. Almost 90,000 are put into institutions for the crimes they commit.

However, here in the commonwealth, the current juvenile system is changing as we know it.

"Prisons don't work," Valerie Koeppel, Roanoke Director of Youth Advocates Programs, said.

While the number of youth behind bars in Virginia has significantly dropped in recent years, Koeppel said she along with others are working to make that number not exist.

"When kids go to prison, they're taken away from their families and the places where they have opportunities to thrive," Koeppel said.

Virginia has the highest rate in the nation of children going through the school to prison pipeline and it's more than double the national average, that's according to a recent study released by Youth First and Urban Institute.

One of the many reason Koeppel said the commonwealth is currently transforming its juvenile system.

"We want to move to a system that we know does work and that's supporting kids and their families in their own communities," Koeppel said.

Instead of going to jail, youth who have committed a crime will start a community placement program.

They will work to create a service plan in their community whether it be helping their family or getting a job.

We're developing pro social skills, helping kids identify their interests and engaging them in activities where they can develop interests and strengths.

Koeppel told WFXR they're already seeing changes especially with the closing of the Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center next month.

"Things are changing and I'm excited to be a part of the transformation," Koeppel said.


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