Virginian-Pilot supports greater judicial discretion in sentencing youths tried as adults, cites JustChildren transfer report
A Virginian-Pilot op-ed piece from December 22nd, 2010, calls for the General Assembly to support measures that would enable judges to give juvenile adjudications to youths tried as adults. Currently, it is possible for a youth tried as an adult to receive a juvenile sentence if convicted, but the conviction itself would still be of the adult felony charge.
Such a felony conviction can wreak permanent havoc on a child's education, job prospects and social development. If judges were able to give a youth a juvenile adjudication along with the juvenile sentence, the youth would conceivably have fewer barriers to a successful reentry into the community -- a goal that serves us all.
JustChildren has authored two reports on juvenile transfer. The 2009 report cited in the op-ed can be found here (PDF). The most recent report, titled "Unlocking the Truth" and released in November 2010, can be found here (PDF).
You can also find more information on the issue of juvenile transfer in Virginia via the Don't Throw Away the Key campaign.
Sign On and Share Your Story: Let the Virginia Department of Education know why homebound instruction needs improvement
Please click here to sign on to JustChildren's petition asking the Department of Education to improve homebound education for Virginia's students with disabilities and serious medical needs.
JustChildren represents low-income students across Central Virginia in matters such as special education and student discipline. In representing individuals and working with other attorneys and service providers, we routinely encounter serious problems with homebound instructional services, including inadequately trained teachers, watered-down curricula, scheduling difficulties, and gaps in coursework.
We also see home-based instruction used as the default disciplinary placement for students with disabilities, regardless of whether their unique needs require a different placement. These factors make it so difficult for students to stay on track to earn their diplomas.
The Virginia Department of Education is seeking public comment on your experiences with homebound instruction. They need to hear from you on why change is necessary. Some students need and benefit from homebound instruction. But the current system is not effective and puts homebound students at a disadvantage compared to their peers in the regular classroom.
Sharing your individual thoughts and experiences on homebound instruction with the Department of Education will help to give color and shape to the very real need for reform on this issue.
The public comment period ends on December 28th, so please don't wait too long. Please sign the petition, add your story, and spread the word -- let your voice be heard.
Thank you for your continued support of the Commonwealth of Virginia's children!
LSC programs please note: This request for public comment is not being conducted through Virginia's regulatory town hall, so the exception allowing LSC programs to participate probably does not apply.
UVA 3L Jeree Harris receives prestigious Skadden Fellowship; will join JustChildren team in Fall 2011
Third-year law student Jeree Harris was recently awarded a prestigious Skadden Fellowship to provide, as a member of the JustChildren team, direct educational representation to Virginia's incarcerated youth from entry into juvenile corrections facilities to reentry into their communities. Harris will spearhead the "Youth Entry to Reentry Education Project," made possible by the two-year fellowship, which provides a stipend and benefits to new attorneys in order to pursue greatly needed public interest projects through legal means. Harris won the fellowship based on her application, which required her to submit a project proposal and secure a sponsoring legal organization to host the project.
Harris is no stranger to child advocacy, or to the Legal Aid Justice Center. She interned with JustChildren in the summer of 2009, and has participated in several Legal Aid advocacy projects throughout her law school career. We can thank a certain Legal Aid Justice Center program director, however, for helping to inspire Jeree towards working with JustChildren: "As a senior in college, I met Angela Ciolfi at the [UVA Law] Conference on Public Service and the Law, and I thought 'I want to come to UVA Law'," Harris said. "I knew I wanted to be a child advocate, and when she talked about her work at JustChildren in Charlottesville, I was completely sold." Ciolfi is the Legal Director of the JustChildren program, and worked closely with Harris on her Skadden application.
Currently, there are close to 840 youth ages 11-19 in Virginia's juvenile correctional centers, many of whom are in need of special education services and many of whom are severely behind their peers in core educational areas like reading and math. Harris' project will seek to address these deficiencies through individual casework and community education, and pursue opportunities to build and strengthen the policies and procedures that govern the provision of education to these youth.
Harris' passion for child advocacy and public service began well before law school -- she received her Bachelor of Arts from the College of William and Mary where she majored in Religious Studies and a self-designed major entitled Social Justice and Community Advocacy. She was the founder of the Academic, College and Career Enrichment (A.C.C.E.) Project, a program for students suspended or expelled from their traditional schools. Before attending law school, she served as an intern with the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in the Child Protection Division.
We congratulate Jeree for her tremendous accomplishment, and so look forward to next fall, when she'll be joining the Legal Aid family!
The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region announced this week that Legal Aid Justice Center Community Educator and Organizer Edgar Aranda-Yanoc has received its 2010 Linowes Leadership Award, which recognizes "outstanding commitment and dedication to helping others." Edgar was presented the award at the Foundation's "Celebration of Civic Spirit" event on Dec. 9th, 2010.
The Community Foundation said that the Linowes Leadership Award is bestowed each year upon several of the Washington, D.C. area's "unsung heroes...whose service, leadership, activism, and vision lift up the Washington region's many diverse communities." Award winners have included non-profit and civic leaders, educators, caregivers, activists and "regular folks." Nominations for the honor are made in secret, and seek to identify contenders for the award whose work has gone unrecognized.
Edgar works with our Immigrant Advocacy Program in the Northern Virginia office, delivering crucial resources and information to emerging and existing immigrant communities in Virginia. As a community educator and organizer, Edgar puts together community forums on crucial immigration issues, advocates in opposition to anti-immigrant laws and policies, supports immigrant community leaders and advocates in their efforts to participate in the civic debate on relevant issues, and prepares and distributes educational materials on issues important to the Latino/Hispanic community.
He is the current chairman of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO), an alliance of Virginia organizations that serve or support the interests of the Latino community in order to secure equal opportunity, treatment and representation for Latinos/Hispanics. VACOLAO is currently working diligently to help ensure passage of the DREAM Act in Congress. In October, Edgar helped to organize the First Virginia Immigrant Advocates Summit in Northern Virginia, bringing together advocates from the Latino, Asian, Pacific Islanders, Middle Eastern and African communities, among others, to interact, network and strategize with fellow advocates on issues and policies related to immigration in Virginia.
"Edgar's exceptional ability to bring people together is clearly beginning to attract attention," said Tim Freilich, legal director of the Legal Aid Justice Center's Immigrant Advocacy Program. "When you consider all the people doing great work throughout the D.C. metro region, this award is a tremendous credit to both Edgar and the Legal Aid Justice Center."
Edgar joined the Legal Aid Justice Center staff in 2007. He is a graduate of the LLM Program in International Law at Temple University and was a practicing attorney in Peru. He received his undergraduate degree in Political Science and Law from the University of Ancash in Peru "Santiago Antunez de Mayolo."
Founded in 1973, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region is a community of givers working to strengthen the Washington region. Through its initiatives and donor funds, The Foundation provides an effective and efficient means for charitable dollars to reach the people and organizations that need them. In FY2010, The Foundation and its donors awarded some $54 million in grants to nonprofit organizations in the Washington, DC region and beyond. The Foundation has two affiliates –The Community Foundation for Montgomery County and The Community Foundation for Prince George’s County. For more information, visit www.thecommunityfoundation.org.