May 2, 2017 Published in City Hall, Top Stories

Juvenile Detention Center Could Lose Money During Alexandria Budget Process

By Carla Branch

The Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center could lose as much as $450,000 from the fiscal year 2018 budget if three members of City Council sign on to Vice Mayor Justin Wilson’s proposal. Wilson proposed moving $450,000 from NVJDC’s budget and “re-purposing” it to support pre-K programs.

“The Commonwealth and the federal government are looking at new ways to provide juvenile detention services,” Wilson said. “Fairfax County has excess capacity and so does NVJDC. We need to have a discussion with the Commission and with our neighboring jurisdictions about how best and most efficiently to provide these services.”

Alexandria City Manager Mark Jinks proposed placing the $450,000 in question in contingent reserve while new Virginia and federal regulations and laws are implemented. Members of the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Commission, which operates the Detention Center have made it clear that placing the funds in contingent reserve is appropriate but “re-purposing” that money is not.

“As juvenile crime fluctuates so does the population at the Detention Center,” said Lillian Brooks, one of Alexandria’s representatives on the Commission and a juvenile justice professional for more than four decades. “It is impossible to predict when we will need those beds but when they are needed, they should be available.”

When the Detention Center opened more than five decades ago, Fairfax County, Arlington County, the City of Alexandria and the City of Falls Church sent juveniles in need of secure detention to the Center. Some years ago, Fairfax County built their own 120-bed facility. NVJDC has 70 beds. While Fairfax County currently has excess capacity, it is unclear whether that capacity would be sufficient to house juveniles from the three jurisdictions that currently use the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center.

Also, according to Commission members, Virginia juvenile justice officials have contacted them about housing specifically more girls as they de-centralize State detention facilities. The State’s goal is to place juveniles who need to be housed in secure facilities closer to their home jurisdictions so that they can receive local services. It is unclear how the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center might fit into the State’s plans.

“I just think we need to begin to have these conversations regionally,” Wilson said. “I wouldn’t want to spend any of the money on pre-K until we are clear about our direction.”

NVJDC Utilization and Cost

Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center
Population Report May, 2016


NVJDC is open 365 days a year and requires round-the-clock staffing. Wilson asked Alexandria budget staff to prepare some cost and utilization information about NVJDC. According to a memorandum dated April 14, 2017, the City’s cost share is determined by deducting State and other sources of revenue from total estimated operating expenses to determine the local share and distributing the local share among the participating jurisdictions of Alexandria, Arlington County and the City of Falls Church. The jurisdictions’ contributions are based upon the average use of the facility, in client days, of each jurisdiction’s clients for the previous three calendar years. Non-participating jurisdictions’ client days and vacancies are not factored into this calculation. 

The City’s contribution has ranged from $1.2 million in FY 2006 to a high of $1.6 million in FY 2008-2010 and $1.4 million in FY 2011-2014. In FY 2016, the contribution was $262,843 due to  the one-time use of NVJDC fund balance. In FY 2017, the contribution increased to $1.1 million. The amount requested by NVJDC for FY 2018 is $1.5 million. The increase from FY 2017 to FY 2018 is due to the need for additional security staffing mandated by the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) staffing requirements, the loss of federal Office of Refugee Resettlement/Division of Children’s Services (ORR/DCS) grant revenue, and the use of one-time prior year funding in the FY 2017 budget. Utilization of the facility in childcare days since FY 2006 is shown in the following table. For several years, the facility used some of the additional capacity from declining local utilization to house children from other jurisdictions and the ORR/DCS program which provided additional revenue, however the ORR/DCS grant expired in January 2017.

There is no direct correlation between childcare days in each year and that year’s contribution since each jurisdictions utilization is measured as a percent of total utilization and is calculated as a three-year trailing average. Revenues from other sources also impact the amount of the overall jurisdictions share and vary year-to-year.  

Childcare Days by Jurisdiction FY 2006-2016 (Courtesy Image)

Because NVJDC is a secure facility, all services must be provided at the Center. Alexandria City Public Schools provides a full array of educational services to juveniles at the Center. Food services, counseling, life skills, some vocational training, medical services and other specialized services that may be mandated by the court are also provided to each resident. Since 2006, Alexandria’s utilization rate at NVJDC has varied from a high of 8,615 client days to a low of 3,074 in 2015. Last year, Alexandria utilized 3,674 client days.

Former Alexandria School Board Member Patricia Hennig also represents Alexandria on the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Commission. “We are happy to discuss the Detention Center’s future with Vice Mayor Wilson and I have invited him to contact our Chairman Dr. Taylor to arrange a meeting,” she said. “It is premature to “re-purpose” any of the Detention Center’s funds until all of the Detention Center’s stakeholders come together to have those conversations.”

The Alexandria City Council will adopt the FY2018 operating budget, including funding for the Detention Center on Thursday night, May 4.

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