Juvenile Justice director leaving post

Published 6:02 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The man leading the effort to build a controversial youth correctional center south of Windsor will serve his last day on the job the day after the Board of Supervisors is expected to take a final vote on the facility.

Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice Director Andrew Block is leaving his post effective April 19.

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The Board is expected to take a final vote on the terms of the land transfer to the state at its meeting April 18 at the Windsor Town Center. 

Gov. Ralph Northam has appointed Valerie Boykin, a Suffolk native, to head up the agency. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Boykin has served as deputy director of community programs for the DJJ since 2015, and has been with the agency for 25 years. 

“During Andy’s tenure as director, the men and women of the Department of Juvenile Justice have fully invested themselves into transforming both the agency and our juvenile justice system, and have set the course to continue this progress,” said Northam. 

“I am grateful for his leadership, for the time he spent serving this administration and the Commonwealth, and for the passion and dedication he brought to serving children, families and communities across Virginia.”

Block said his leaving has nothing to do with the project in Windsor, and if anything, would be a reason to stay. 

“For some time it has been clear to me that as much as I love my job, and deeply believe in all we are doing, I need to be more available to my family than I have been,” Block said in an email last week. 

“The agency is lucky to have Valerie in this role as she has been a key leader in our transformation,” said Block in a governor’s press release.

 “She knows our people, knows this work, and cares passionately about the children and families we serve. She will do an amazing job as our new director,” he said.

The facility in Windsor is a piece of that transformation, which is based on the results of a system-wide assessment by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The transformation calls for safely reducing the number of youth placed in state custody, dramatically reforming correctional practices to focus on more rigorous treatment and education, and closing two juvenile correctional centers, reinvesting the savings into building a statewide continuum of community-based services and supports, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

The 60-bed residential facility proposed for south of Windsor is smaller and closer to the homes of the boys who will be housed there. The program will include academic and vocational training, as well as medical, substance abuse, emotional and family support.

Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice said he has no concern at all that the DJJ is changing hands as the county is poised to take a final vote on a project that has generated an enormous amount of public opposition. 

“The young lady who is taking his place is absolutely super,” said Grice of Boykin. 

Grice said he’s met Boykin and is impressed. 

Grice was one of the three supervisors who voted to transfer the county’s 20 acres to the state, along with Chairman William McCarty and Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson.

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree, who voted against the transfer, said the resignation is a “game changer.” 

Acree is disappointed that the state did not better convey that the Windsor facility was part of an overall transformation based on actual data and practices in other states. 

“This wasn’t their first rodeo,” said Acree, referring to the failed attempt to build the same facility in Chesapeake, where public opposition led to a lack of a super majority vote by the city council.   {/mprestriction}