Acree blames state

Published 6:34 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Says agency has relied on IW to explain facility

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

On her first public appearance in Isle of Wight County, newly appointed Director of Juvenile Justice Valerie Boykin was met with a lengthy criticism of the agency’s performance during the run-up to getting the youth correctional center approved. 

Boykin has responded, and plans to form a citizen’s advisory committee for the facility. 

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The one-page, single-spaced statement came from Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree, who represents ground zero for opposition toward the project. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Acree, who voted against the land transfer to the state in February, read his statement at the April Board of Supervisors work session. 

Acree said he believes the DJJ is largely responsible for why the proposed facility is not being embraced by Isle of Wight County residents. 

The DJJ should have been sharing its vision to transform youth rehabilitation to residents here as soon as the possibility that a facility would be located here, said Acree. 

The 60-bed all-male residential correctional facility is slated for 20 acres along Route 258, about two miles south of Route 460. 

That vision should have been backed up with facts, studies, examples and data, as well as the level of offenses clearly defined, said Acree. 

Acree said county staff had been put in the position of marketing the project, which left the impression that County Administrator Randy Keaton is a proponent of the facility. Acree referenced the lengthy question and answer document staff had created, updated and posted online. 

“I believe his only duties should have been handing the microphone or projector remote to the person presenting the DJJ program,” said Acree of Keaton.

“These misplaced obligations have resulted in a division within our citizens and a division between the Board of Supervisors and the citizens we are elected to serve,” said Acree, referring to the groundswell of opposition that has arisen since the project was announced last summer. 

Boykin responded with a statement of her own, stating that the DJJ has presented information to the public on several occasions, including data to support the agency’s ongoing transformation.

The transformation includes more community-based programs, and for those needing incarceration, smaller facilities closer to the homes of the inmates. The smaller secure units will incorporate academic and vocational training, as well as medical, substance abuse and mental health services and support. 

The DJJ has also hosted the Board and its guests on a tour of the Bon Air facility in Chesterfield County, the only secure unit operated by agency in the state, said Boykin. 

“I had an opportunity to listen and discuss the concerns of some citizens following the Board’s work session on April 4. We will develop a citizens’ advisory committee as we currently have for our Bon Air facility. We have already had conversations with members in the faith community, and as we move forward with the County on the project, we are committed to working closely with more citizen groups. We want to ensure that we build a safe and secure facility that provides quality rehabilitative services to youth while being a good neighbor and minimizing disruption to the community,” said Boykin.  {/mprestriction}