New report finds major racial disparities in Virginia’s juvenile justice system

A new report shows a significant racial disparity in young offenders referred to jail in Virginia.

The findings come as the overall number of children in jail has declined over the last few years.

Young Black offenders are 2.5 times more likely than young white offenders to be referred to Virginia’s juvenile justice system over the last decade, according to a new report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.

According to the report, law enforcement accounted for the greatest racial disparity in referrals. It states that disproportionality in referrals was found in all of the state’s 34 court service unit districts.

And, while there are 70% fewer young offenders in Virginia’s juvenile justice system than 10 years ago, recidivism rates remain high among high-risk youth.



The report said that 68% of those released from a juvenile detention center in Virginia between FY 2016 and FY 2018 were reconvicted within two years. A majority of those reconvictions happened within the first year of release.

There is, however, a promising reduction in recidivism among lower-risk youth, according to the report. For example, two-year rearrests declined from 23% to 19% between FY15 and FY19 among youth who completed diversion plans, and from 49% to 44% between FY15 and FY19 for those released from probation.

The report also suggested that Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in Chesterfield County should be replaced with smaller regional facilities because of the sharp decline in the number of offenders there.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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