Virginia Democrats Want to Deal With Criminals 18-20 in the Juvenile Justice System

by James C. Sherlock

I received an update yesterday from the NAACP on legislation that caught their interest in the 2023 General Assembly.

One bill that did not pass, but got party line Democratic support in the Senate Judiciary Committee, in turn caught my eye.

It was SB 1080 Juvenile and domestic relations district courts; adjudication of delinquency. Patrons were Senators Edwards, Boysko and Surovell. It was not some fringe bill. This is a mainstream Democratic goal.

The NAACP wanted me to know they wanted it reintroduced next year.

Delinquency is currently defined as criminal complaints for felonies or misdemeanors filed against a juvenile age 17 and under.

Democrats, unanimous in the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted to create a newly-defined class of “underage persons,” 18-20, and handle them in the juvenile justice system as well.

Seriously. Twenty-year-old felons in juvenile detention facilities.

They voted for that.

The bill, summarized here with a link to the full bill:

Raises the maximum age for delinquency matters in juvenile and domestic relations district courts from persons under 18 years of age to persons under 21 years of age.

The bill defines “underage person” as an individual who is 18 years of age or older but younger than 21 years of age.

The bill adds underage persons to all provisions regarding delinquency proceedings in juvenile and domestic relations district courts, the transfer of delinquency matters to circuit courts, and criminal procedure as currently applies to juveniles only.

All the Democrats on Judiciary — Senators Edwards, Deeds, Saslaw, Lucas, Petersen, Surovell, McClellan, Boysko, and Morrissey — voted in favor.

The bill failed in Senate Finance and Appropriations. You can read the eye-popping Fiscal Impact Statement here. But spending public money on something they want has never slowed progressives down for long.

Democrats mean for this to become law. For those who want to pass this off as mere virtue signaling to the base, perhaps they should define “virtue” for the rest of us. And “base.”

Ignore for a moment the enormous impacts on:

  • Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts –  an extra 162,000 cases per year;
  • The juvenile court services units — the tripling of annual intakes; and,
  • Juvenile correctional centers and juvenile detention homes.

Virginians need to consider whether this is what we as a society should do.

It’s not like they are going to be rehabilitated in a Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) facility alongside the adolescents.

At the last report in 2020, the majority (68%) of youth released from a JDC rehabilitative program between FY16 and FY18 were re-convicted within two years. The majority of these re-convictions occurred within the first year of a youth’s release.

Let’s see how that works with 18- to 20-year-olds.

Do we want criminal adults 18-21 to labeled as “underage persons” and treated as juveniles? Handled like juveniles for processing? Cases heard in front of juvenile court judges? Mixed with juveniles in detention? Victims notified only upon request? The public excluded from court proceedings? Records treated like juvenile records?

The societal implications, not the least for the true juveniles in the juvenile justice system today, are chilling.

Elected Democrats are in favor. A question for them:

Why stop at 21?