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Alexandria and Arlington Want a New Future for the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center

The 60-year-old Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center is in disrepair and underutilized, and over the next six months staff from Arlington and Alexandria will send back recommendations on its future use.

That could mean co-locating mental health and rehabilitative services to the center, or potentially shutting it down altogether.

Mayor Justin Wilson, in a joint meeting with the Arlington County Board on Monday, said that Fairfax County is not interested in taking juveniles from the center. Wilson said that he recently spoke with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay, who reportedly told him that the door is not closed on the issue, “but the hill is steep.”

“I think they (Fairfax County) have some some resistance for a variety of different reasons to to bringing kids from other jurisdictions into their facility,” Wilson said. “I think  there is a logic to potentially working together again given the way the capacity is, but the door is not closed.”

Fairfax County’s juvenile detention center has 121 beds and is currently at 25% capacity.

The center, which opened in 1958 at 200 S. Whiting Street in the West End, houses youth with serious offenses and behavioral issues from Alexandria, Arlington County and the City of Falls Church. The center has seen a 72% reduction in the number of juveniles in the facility between 2006 and 2019, prompting a reduction of beds at the facility from 70 to 46 in 2016, according to a cost benefit analysis provided the Moss Group.

The analysis also found that:

  • The facility is underutilized
  • The average age of an inmate is 16.5 years
  • There were 150 juveniles committed in fiscal year 2019
  • The juveniles were 56.7% African American, 38.7% Caucasian, 30.7% Hispanic and 4.6% Other/Unknown
  • 72% of juveniles were male; 28% were female
  • Most common offenses are probation violation, contempt of court, robbery, assault, larceny and narcotics

Arlington County Board Member Christian Dorsey said the analysis created more questions that answers, and that staff from Alexandria and Arlington should collaborate to create options for future use at the center.

“I recognize that it is not satisfying to come to the conclusion where we’ve had a study that indicates that we have a need for more study, and more questions and more looked at data to be explored,” Dorsey said. “There’s still probably more opportunities for us to explore diversion and ways in which we can not actually have juveniles entering this facility.”

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