Prior to serving as a police officer and detective, I was employed in the prison system as a corrections officer. I spent part of this miserable portion of my life working in a prison that housed a unique group of inmates, those who were absolutely and totally unwanted by the state’s numerous other institutions. It was a place for criminal misfits. They were unmanageable, unruly, and they hated the air and the sky, the water they drank, and they hated themselves. Just plain nasty is what they were.
This particular facility, the place where I spent most of my waking hours in those days, was divided into four separate buildings with each surrounded by a tall fence. One section was for the super mean and out of control, another for just regular mean guys, a third for prisoners with special needs, and the fourth for mentally ill inmates who’s diet consisted largely of handfuls of medications such as Thorazine and Wellbutrin.
The prisoners there enjoyed throwing things at us (feces was a favorite). They liked to fight us. They often attempted to catch one of us alone so they could deliver a beating from hell. Escape attempts were often and killing other inmates was a sport. Didn’t happen too often, but when it did the fellows seemed to derive a bit of pleasure from seeing blood and dead bodies.
The place was a nightmare for officers. As I stated earlier, it was miserable.
In the late 1980’s, Virginia opened the doors to what they called the Youthful Offender Centers. These were prisons designated to house young males between the ages of 18-21 who’d been convicted of various crimes.
It was my understanding, after speaking with a few of the officers who worked there, that they, too, felt pretty darn miserable at the end of the day. You know, same old, same old—the victims of tossed feces and squirts of urine and other body fluids, fights, escape attempts, yada, yada, yada. Most of the officers there also said they felt as if they worked in a facility that trained young inmates to be better older prisoners and the best criminals they could possibly become.
But this is where the young criminals ended up. What about prior to prison and the process that eventually lands those troubled youths behind bars?
Well, in Virginia, for example:
- Juvenile is any child under the age of eighteen.
- Delinquent: A juvenile who has committed an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult.
- CHINS – Child in Need of Services: A juvenile whose behavior, conduct or condition presents or results in a serious threat to the juvenile’s well-being and physical safety of another person.
- Child in Need of Supervision meets one of these criteria:
- A juvenile subject to mandatory school attendance, is habitually absent without valid excuse.
- A juvenile who remains away from his family or guardian.
- A juvenile who escapes or remains away from a residential care facility ordered by the court.
Child Abuse and Neglect
- A caregiver who creates or inflicts a physical or mental injury upon a child.
- A caregiver who creates the child to be at risk of physical or mental injury.
- A caregiver who refuses to provide for juvenile’s health and well-being.
- Intake – Reviews all complaints regarding juvenile crime and determines whether there are enough facts to involve the court. If so, the intake officer may either proceed informally to make practical adjustments without filing a petition (a petition is basically a warrant, akin to an adult arrest warrant) or the intake officer may authorize the filing of a petition (a warrant) to bring the matter before the judge. An intake officer may also order the placement of a juvenile offender in a secure detention facility designated for juveniles whose present offense requires such security prior to a detention hearing by a juvenile and domestic relations district court judge. Note: Intake officers used to be called probation officers.
- Investigation – Intake officers conduct background studies, such as examination of a juvenile’s familial, social and educational history. Such studies may be used by the court as a factor in determining the disposition appropriate to the subject and by the probation staff in the formulation of a services and supervision plan.
- Probation. Supervises delinquent juveniles and children in need of services released into home probation and supervises adults released on probation in support and other cases involving the defendant’s relation with family members and individuals to whom he has a support duty.
Residential Care: Supervises juveniles being held in detention, shelter care and post dispositional probation facilities. In most localities, the staff of these facilities are employees of the localities served by the court and work cooperatively with the staff of the respective court service unit.
Social Services: Welfare and social service agencies are in frequent contact with the court in certain types of cases. They perform the initial investigation in abuse and neglect cases. Juveniles may be committed to such agencies when they are removed from home. Other agencies provide such services as may be ordered by the judge.
Juvenile Delinquency and CHINS Cases; Adult Criminal Cases Detention or Shelter Care
A juvenile may be taken into custody if one of the following applies:
- A judge, clerk at judge’s direction or intake officer issues a detention order requiring the juvenile to be taken into custody.
- A juvenile is alleged to be a CHINS and there is clear and substantial danger to the child’s life or health and this is necessary for the child’s appearance before the court.
- A juvenile commits a crime that is witnessed by a police officer or would be a felony if committed by an adult (a crime punishable by more than 12 months in jail).
- A juvenile commits a misdemeanor offense involving shoplifting, assault and battery, or carrying a weapon on school property.
- A juvenile has absconded from lawful incarceration or a court ordered residential home, facility, or placement by a child welfare agency.
- A juvenile is believed to be in need of inpatient mental health treatment.
If not immediately released by the intake officer or magistrate, the juvenile is held in custody (detention) until being brought before the judge for a detention hearing. The juvenile’s detention hearing should be held the next day the court sits within the city or county but no longer than 72 hours after being taken into custody. Prior notice of the detention hearing must be given to the juvenile’s parent or guardian, and to the juvenile if over 12 years of age. A detention hearing is not a trial, but merely a hearing to determine whether the detention of the juvenile should be continued.
The judge decides whether to hold the juvenile in secure detention or release the juvenile to a parent, guardian or persons having custody of the juvenile, or to shelter care. Shelter care is defined as the temporary care of children in a physically unrestricted environment.
The judge may set bail and/or certain rules to be followed while the juvenile released awaiting trial. The judge may order the juvenile be held in detention if the judge believes that there is probable cause the juvenile committed the act and:
- The juvenile is charged with violation of probation or parole.
- The juvenile is charged with a felony or class 1 misdemeanor and: (a) is a threat to self or others or the property of others or (b) has threatened not to come to court or has failed to appear to court within the past 12 months. While the juvenile is in a detention home or shelter placement, parents or guardians wishing to visit may do so only during permitted visiting hours. Parents or guardians should find out in advance of a visit: the hours of visitation, the documentation needed, dress code, the number of visitors allowed at one time and any restrictions concerning who is allowed to visit.
Certification or Transfer to Circuit Court for Trial as an Adult
A case involving a juvenile 14 years or older accused of a felony may be certified or transferred to circuit court where the juvenile would be tried as an adult. A hearing to determine whether to transfer the case cannot occur unless the juvenile’s parents or their attorney are notified of the transfer hearing.
Certification to Circuit Court
A juvenile 14 years or older at the time of the alleged felony offense(s) may be transferred to the circuit court and tried as an adult. Some felony charges require that a judge make the decision whether to hear the case in juvenile or circuit court. The Commonwealth must provide notice requesting transfer of the juvenile’s felony cases to circuit court. This written notice must be sent to the attorney for the juvenile or to the juvenile and one parent or legal guardian. A judge will hold a hearing to consider whether probable cause exists regarding the offense(s) charged and whether transfer of the case to circuit court is appropriate. Some factors the judge may consider when determining whether the case should be heard in circuit court or in juvenile court are: the juvenile’s previous court contacts, competency, school record information and the child’s age and emotional maturity.
Transfer to Circuit Court
If a juvenile was 14 years or older and charged with a violent felony, then the Commonwealth may certify the charge to circuit court for trial. Written notice to the juvenile’s attorney or to the juvenile and one parent or legal guardian, must be provided. In these cases, the judge solely determines probable cause as to whether or not the charged juvenile committed the crime. These charges are: felonious injury by mob, abduction, malicious wounding, malicious wounding of a law enforcement officer, felonious poisoning, adulteration of products, robbery, carjacking, rape, forcible sodomy, or object sexual penetration. OR A list of these violent juvenile felony charges is listed in Virginia Code section 16.1-269.1C. If the judge finds that probable cause exists that the juvenile committed the crime(s) charged then the juvenile’s case will be tried in circuit court.
The crimes of murder or aggravated malicious wounding are automatically certified to the circuit court if the juvenile is 14 years or older at the time of the offense and the court has found probable cause that the juvenile has committed the offense(s) charged. No Commonwealth request is needed.
Statements made by the juvenile during the transfer hearing may not be used as evidence of the offense at a later court hearing but may be used if the juvenile testifies during trial.
Both the Commonwealth and juvenile may appeal a transfer decision within 10 days of the transfer hearing. Any juvenile convicted in circuit court will be treated as an adult in all future criminal cases.
*Much of the information in this article is from The Commonwealth of Virginia, The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. I suppose to copy and paste is lazy, cheating, and plagiarizing. All I can say is “Guilty!” But I’m in a time crunch today. Still, the information is important and I’m really hoping the text, since it’s a government agency, is in the public domain. Fingers crossed. In the meantime … wish me luck, and I hope you find the material useful. By the way, as far as I know the little guy in the top photo is not a juvenile delinquent.