West Virginia’s Juvenile Justice System in the Crosshairs

WDTV 5

by Alex Wiederspiel

Our state is taking action to fix issues with the juvenile justice system. Governor Tomblin and others are preparing for what is being called a landmark review of our juvenile corrections system.

So what exactly will this entail?

Along with Governor Tomblin, members of the Legislature, the State Supreme Court of Appeals, and Pew Charitable Trusts are gearing up for the review and possibly major reform.

They are hoping to tackle this issue with this additional research to find out what exactly the current programs need to better serve youth in the juvenile justice system. Drug abuse is seen as one of the biggest reasons why juveniles enter the system in the first place.

“I don’t if it’s gone up as much as it’s gotten more serious. You see more drug dealing then there used to be in the past. You see more of it coming from out of state and kids getting a hold of drugs and dealing,” said Trish Dittori, who supervises juvenile prosecutions for the Harrison County Prosecutor’s Office.

Said Governor Tomblin, “While much of our initial justice reinvestment efforts have focused on addressing our adult corrections system, we must also make every effort to better meet the needs of our youth and prevent them from ever entering our prison system. As we continue to put emphasis on reforming West Virginia’s justice system, we must also move toward a more effective approach for juveniles – one that embraces community-based treatment and tells our children we care about them and their future.”

One of the possible changes you could see involves providing better support in the community for reformed juveniles once they’ve completed their programs and left the system.

“We see a lot of kids make changes when they’re with us, but when they go back to communities without support they really struggle. So I think one of the challenges, and I think one of the things we’re going to be working on with Pew, is to enhance our community support services that we have for youth,” said Stephanie Bond, Acting Director of the Division of Juvenile Services.