Alexandria City Councilman Mo Seifeldein wants the underutilized 60-year-old Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center to shut down.
Staff from the City of Alexandria, Arlington County and Falls Church will make recommendations over the next several months on how to proceed with the building at 200 S. Whiting Street in the West End, which houses youth with serious offenses and behavioral issues from the three jurisdictions.
Seifeldein said that the detention center facilitates inequality, as the inmate population is disproportionately made up of minorities.
“We must work to institute a new, community-based system that best responds to the needs of all of our children and students,” Seifeldein said. “Black youth are consistently and disproportionately detained and incarcerated during pre- and post-trial adjudication, compared to their white counterparts.”
A cost benefit analysis released last fall revealed that the facility is underutilized, with Black juveniles making up an estimated 60% of inmates, followed by 39% white inmates, 31% Hispanic inmates and about 5% listed as other/unknown. There were 150 juveniles committed in fiscal year 2019, and saw a 72% reduction in the number of inmates between 2006 and 2019. That led to a reduction of beds at the facility from 70 to 46 in 2016.
Fairfax County reportedly does not want the inmate at its juvenile detention center, although last fall was at 25% capacity with 121 beds.
“We must work towards creating meaningful restorative outcomes that address the root causes of misbehavior and help our children work beyond their mistakes in order to create promising futures,” Seifeldein said. “This begins with closing the Northern Virginia Detention Center.”
Alexandria Man Shot to Death in Georgetown — “Officers from the Second District responded around 2:56 a.m., to the 3300 block of Water St., N.W., for the sound of gunshots. They found Franklin Hernandez Arevalo, 19, of Alexandria, Virginia suffering from a gunshot wound. D.C. Fire and EMS determined Arevalo had died and transported him later to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.” [Patch]
Beyer Says Trump Trying to Steal Election — “This is simple: Donald Trump is openly trying to steal an election he lost. He will not succeed, but we will remember who went along with it. ‘I was just following orders’ will not be accepted as an excuse for attempting to overthrow the results of an American election.” [Twitter]
ALIVE! Free Food Distribution is this Saturday — “On Sat, Nov 14, 8:30-10:30 am, @ALIVE4AlexVA will distribute food in Cora Kelly Elementary School parking lot (3600 Commonwealth Ave) and parking lot B-1 of NOVA-Alexandria Campus (3320 Bisdorf Drive; map at alive-inc.org).” [Twitter]
Free Flu Shots This Wednesday — “Now is the time to get a flu shot! The next Alexandria Inova Cares Clinic for Families FREE flu shot clinic for uninsured people is Wednesday, Nov. 11, 3-5 p.m.” [Twitter]
Virtual Alexandria Film Festival Kicks Off Nov. 12 — “There are about 50 films in this year’s festival.” [Alexandria Living]
Today’s Weather — “Intervals of clouds and sunshine (during the day). Areas of patchy fog. High around 75F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph. Partly cloudy skies during the evening will give way to cloudy skies overnight. Slight chance of a rain shower. Low 62F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Juvenile Detention Specialist — “The Detention Specialist work involves providing direct care to detainees in the custody of the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center. The primary responsibilities for the position are to provide security, safety and care for juveniles. The Detention Specialist shall receive direct supervision by the Assistant Shift Supervisor and Shift Supervisor.” [Indeed]
A 17-year-old is on the run after being charged with stealing a car in the West End in the early morning of Saturday, September 19.
The suspect, who was from out of town visiting friends, was followed for a half mile by the owner of the car, who held him until police arrived, according to a search warrant affidavit.
The juvenile was processed through juvenile services at the Alexandria courthouse, according to police.
“We don’t know where he is,” Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine told ALXnow.
Ballantine said that a runaway notice that was released on September 21 was later rescinded.
At around 1:20 a.m. on September 19, the owner of a silver Toyota Highlander reported to police that his car, which had been stolen two hours prior, just drove past his residence. The owner reported that he was waiting for police to arrive when he saw the suspect walk down the road, and then minutes later saw the same suspect driving down the street in his car, according to the affidavit.
The owner, who is a federal law enforcement officer, got into another one of his cars and followed the suspect for a half mile until he stopped in the 5800 block of Quantrell Avenue.
The victim then “pulled up across from the stolen vehicle, observed the same Black male in a black hooded sweatshirt exit his stolen vehicle, then issued him commands to lay on the ground,” according to the affidavit.
The car owner kept the suspect in custody until police arrived.
The suspect admitted to police that he was hanging out with friends and stole the car when one them gave him the keys, according to police.
Beyer Says Trump Has Given Up on COVID-19 — “225,000 Americans dead as the country hurtles uncontrollably towards 9 million cases with a President who has surrendered to the virus.” [Twitter]
Community Meeting Next Month on Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center — “Juvenile incarceration rates across the nation have declined over the last decade, including in the three jurisdictions that use the center.” [City of Alexandria]
Alexandrian Starts Custom Crayon Company — “Cosmic Crayon launched in September 2019. The first molds she purchased were letters. She began making marbled names and then eventually branched out to other shapes, like dinosaurs, rock-ets and teddy bears.” [Alexandria Living]
Carlyle Halloween Festivities Farmer’s Market & Concert is Friday — “There will be trick-or-treating on-site so kids will be able to take candy home. Bring your already-carved pumpkin to enter it in the Pumpkin Carving Challenge.” [Zebra]
Today’s Weather — “Mostly cloudy skies (in the morning). High 66F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph. Cloudy (in the evening). Slight chance of a rain shower. Low 53F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney — “Our office is hiring! If you know someone who would be interested in being part of a reform-minded prosecutor’s office that is dedicated to the values of transparency, fairness, rehabilitation, and diversity, please let them know about this opening. Our office has some of the finest litigators in the state and we have a proud legacy of working to help keep the community safe, while also striving to make the justice system more just. Come join a fantastic team!” [Facebook]
This was a big week for Alexandria.
Our top story this week was the Alexandria School Board’s decision to reopen schools for students with disabilities, while the future reopening of school for elementary, middle and high schoolers remains in doubt.
Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that the only feasible option for reopening schools — based on distancing and staffing constraints — would be for students to rotate to in-person schooling only one day per week. Hutchings also appeared on CNN and said that ACPS is not likely to fully reopen until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus.
We also reported that the Alexandria City Council approved plans for Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus and the North Potomac Yard development plan, virtually paving the way for the college to open its doors to hundreds of students by 2024.
“This is a very significant set of decisions for the city, and is really going to shape, not just a portion of our city, but really the entirety of our city for a long period of time to come,” said Mayor Justin Wilson.
On the coronavirus front, there are now 75 deaths in Alexandria and there are now or have been more than 4,100 cases since the pandemic began in March. Latino residents continue to lead the case count.
Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine were in the city on Monday to unveil a team of new zero emission DASH electric buses.
We also reported that the City Council unanimously approved naming the 1000 block of Montgomery Street in Old Town “Earl F. Lloyd Way” in honor of the first Black man to ever play in the National Basketball Association.
Restaurant-wise, we spoke with one of the owners of a pizza and burger joint that is taking over the former location of Pizzeria Paradiso on lower King Street. The Chewish Deli is also now open in Old Town, and the owner of Del Ray Boccato says that his gelato shop will soon open.
Additionally, more than 175 people participated in our weekly poll. With the November 3 election around the corner, this week we asked about voting plans, and 65% of respondents voted by mail/absentee, 31% plan to vote on election day, and 4% are not voting.
Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:
- School Board Shelves Plan to Reopen Schools in 2021, Students with Disabilities Transitioning Back Next Month
- City Releasing Torpedo Factory Draft Action Plan Today
- City Council Approves Virginia Tech Innovation Campus and North Potomac Yard Development Plan
- Alexandria Student Called N-Word in Online Forum, and Not By Another Student
- Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
- The Chewish Deli Opens New Location in Old Town
- One Arrested After Attempted Armed Robbery in Alexandria’s West End
- Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
- Female Suspect Flees, Nothing Taken in Attempted Old Town Bank Robbery
- Alexandria and Arlington Want a New Future for the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center
- Alexandria Courthouse Deep Cleaned After Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19
Have a safe weekend!
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.”
Creative writing nonprofit Heard is still finding ways to make noise. The three-year-old nonprofit had to shut down a number of its creative writing and art classes for the homeless, domestic violence survivors, and the incarcerated because of the pandemic. Now inmates at the Alexandria Detention Center will soon have back their creative outlet with Zoom classes.
“The jail did contact me and said they are in the process of getting more access to televisions and Zoom capabilities,” Collins told ALXnow. “And they asked me to put a proposal in so we could continue to offer creative writing poetry and visual arts classes.”
Heard now has a dozen community partners, including the Alexandria Domestic Violence Shelter, Community Lodgings, the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center and the Arlington County Detention Center. It’s also in the process of adding Casa Chirilagua to its mix of clients.
Instructors include former Alexandria Poet Laureate Wendi Kaplan, former Baltimore Ravens cheerleader Tina Kantiano, and TV journalist Alexandra Rockey Fleming.
Heard sponsors an annual writing contest at the Alexandria and Arlington Jails, and also teaches creative writing, journalism, poetry, visual arts, improvisation, etiquette, dance and public speaking.
Collins, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, said she is inspired by the level of creativity exhibited by Heard’s students.
“I always thought their stories were valid, that marginalized communities needed a platform and deserve to be heard,” she said. “There is no commonality among people in detention centers, aside from the fact that they’re incarcerated. There are people with advanced degrees, people who never made it through high school. They are some of the cleverest people I’ve ever gone across, and I base that on reading their written work.”
The untitled piece below the jump was written in August 2019 by Stephen Y. in the Alexandria Jail.
Memorial Service for Coach Boone — “Family, friends and complete strangers on Saturday remembered Herman Boone, the iconic T.C. Williams High School head football coach who led the team to a championship in 1971.” [Fox 5, Facebook, WTOP]
Local Group Celebrates 50th Anniversary — “In May 1969, a group of concerned Alexandrians from several churches met to discuss how they could ‘re-emphasize the role, and renew the efforts, of the local churches in providing assistance to people in need.’ The group formed a nonprofit organization called ALIVE!… At a legislative meeting last month, city council issued a proclamation acknowledging ALIVE!’s 50th anniversary.” [Alexandria Times]
More On Juvenile Detention Facility — “More than two-thirds of the cells at the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center are empty on this gray, rainy morning in December, and not just because the 22 teenagers housed there are in classes or meetings in other parts of the facility… The three Northern Virginia communities — Arlington, Falls Church and Alexandria — that share the $5.8 million operating cost of the facility just south of Landmark Mall in Alexandria are wondering whether there is a better option.” [Washington Post]
Meeting About Detention Center Held Last Night — “Should a youth detention center in Northern Virginia stay open? That question spurred passionate debate at a series of public meetings this month, as the operators of the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center make decisions about the future of the facility… ‘I would like to see the facility stay open because it helps youth,’ said Bill Cleveland, former vice mayor of Alexandria.” [WTOP, Twitter/@AmyJacksonVA]
City Council Approves Waterfront Restaurant — “The Mill, a southern kitchen and market, gained approval to open in a historic Alexandria warehouse at 10 Duke Street on the waterfront. City Council voted on Nov. 16 to approve the special use permit and encroachment into the public right-of-way on Duke Street for a balcony, steps and signage.” [Patch]
Xmas Tree Selected for Dec. 8 Tree Lighting — “After scouting for the Del Ray Christmas tree by air over the Naughty Pines tree farm in Dickerson, Md., the perfect specimen has been identified. They found it in Anderson’s single engine Cirrus airplane, and all they have to do now is inspect it on the ground, cut it down, lift it onto a trailer, and haul it over to Mount Vernon Avenue.” [Zebra]
NORAD Exercises Planned Tonight — “Don’t be frightened if you see and hear military aircraft speeding overhead… The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is expected to conduct air exercises over the Washington area from Thursday night into early Friday morning. Flights are scheduled between midnight and 5:30 a.m.” [WTOP]
The facility, located at 200 S. Whiting Street, is a 70-bed detention center that takes in teenagers from Alexandria, Falls Church and Arlington County with a misdemeanor or felony offenses.
Between 2006 and 2019, the detention center has seen steadily declining usage. The number of total bed days — a calculation of the number of juveniles multiplied by the number of days each stays at the facility — has had a 70 percent decline from 20,092 in 2006 to 5,574 in 2019.
A study on what to do with the detention center is currently underway by D.C.-based criminal justice consulting firm The Moss Group.
“[The Moss Group] is evaluating what changes, if any, could be made to the Center to make it more efficient while still meeting the needs of the juvenile population and communities at large,” the City of Alexandria said in a press release, “or whether the Center should be closed due to underutilization, and youth detained in another center in Northern Virginia.”
A fact sheet for the study cites a variety of causes for the decline, including decreased juvenile crime, increased use of alternatives to detention, and legal changes in juvenile court practices. Fairfax County has experienced similar declines, and the study indicated that “further regionalization” could be an answer to the underutilization.
Meanwhile, the facility was budgeted for $5.8 million in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, with $1.5 million contributed from Alexandria. The fact sheet notes that the declining utilization has led to an increase in per diem costs to each jurisdiction.
The three localities that contribute to the detention center are each planning to host community meetings to provide more information about the study and listen to community feedback.
- City of Falls Church: Thursday, November 14, from 7-8:30 p.m. at City Hall (300 Park Avenue)
- City of Alexandria: Wednesday, November 20, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Lee Center (1108 Jefferson Street)
- Arlington County: Thursday, November 21, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Central Library Auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street)
Staff photo by Jay Westcott