RICHMOND — Virginia will use a new federal grant to help juvenile offenders at the end of their sentences return home and have successful lives, the governor’s office said this week.
The announcement of the $700,000 grant comes as states across the country are moving away from warehousing inmates to connecting them with local services in hopes of reducing recidivism and saving taxpayer dollars.
Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security, said the state spends $150,000 annually per juvenile offender. About 360 youths live in two large prison-like facilities.
“How can we best provide services to these juveniles recognizing that they will be released at the latest at 21 years of age?” Moran said. Job training, education and mental health services will be deployed to help these young people ‘in our best public safety interest,” he said.
Some of the money will be used to connect family members with their loved ones behind bars through transportation or video conferencing, he said.
Andrew Block, director of the state Department of Juvenile Justice, added that officials will avoid using the grant to pay for long-range programs that would abruptly end when the dollars run out.
Instead the focus will be on revamping the state’s re-entry process to prepare parole officers, help families safely welcome their children home and train staff to use risk-needs assessment tools.
“The overall goal of this grant is to make sure that every young person returning home from secure confinement has the right plan in place at the right time so that they have the best opportunity possible to lead a successful and happy and productive life as a citizen of the commonwealth,” he said.
Virginia is one of three states awarded funds by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.