Facing Budget Cuts, Virginia Mulls Sending Special Needs Youth to Maximum Security Facilities

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Plans to house young people with special needs at a maximum security juvenile correctional center have drawn criticisms in Virginia, reports NBC affiliate WWBT.

Beaumont Maximum Security Juvenile Correctional Center in Powhatan, Va., is scheduled to become the new home for several special needs young people who are currently housed at the Oak Ridge Juvenile Correctional Center in Chesterfield, Va.

Facility officials believe an initial cost of $40,000 will be needed to renovate a wing designed specifically to hold special needs young people at the center; the youth being transferred range in ages from 12 to 20, with WWBT reporting that virtually all of the new residents are operating on “4th grade” levels.

In 2011, a Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice report said such a move was “not viable,” citing concerns about how effectively low-functioning young people could be treated at the facility. Center officials, however, told WWBT that young people with special needs would not be housed alongside the rest of the facility’s maximum security population when the proposed transition takes place later this spring.

The relocation plan — set to begin March 26 — is part of a larger DJJ reorganization and budget reduction strategy.

“We were asked to see if we could cut some budget here and there,” said DJJ Public Information Officer Greg Davy. “If we had a choice, we would have kept [other facilities] open, but in this case the population has been going down.”

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