Area juvenile detainees will move to Williamsburg

Published 5:32 pm Friday, September 29, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Isle of Wight and Southampton counties have partnered with the cities of Franklin and Suffolk to house children accused of crimes at the Merrimac Juvenile Detention Center in Williamsburg.

Chesapeake Juvenile Services, which had previously housed the four localities’ juvenile detainees, ceased accepting non-Chesapeake inmates at the end of March.

The Middle Peninsula Juvenile Commission, which administers Merrimac, in February agreed to fill the void by accepting the four localities’ court-involved youth at a cost of $291 per day per bed.

Email newsletter signup

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton, Southampton County Administrator Brian Thrower, Franklin City Manager Amanda Jarratt and Suffolk City Manager Albert Moor recently signed paperwork formalizing the arrangement, which will guarantee the four localities a collective eight beds at Merrimac for the next three years.

Suffolk is allocated just over 78% of the guaranteed beds and a like percentage of the agreement’s cost. At $291 per inmate per day, Suffolk will pay $664,441 of the agreement’s $849,720 annual cost.

Isle of Wight and Southampton are each responsible for roughly 6%, or just over $50,000 per year. Franklin will pay 9%, or $80,242 annually.

Isle of Wight will act as the fiscal agent for the other three localities and make payments on their behalf. On Sept. 21, Isle of Wight supervisors added $797,787 to its budgeted general fund expenditures for the year, reflecting Southampton’s, Suffolk’s and Franklin’s collective share.

The decision as to whether a juvenile’s offense warrants detention pending a court hearing is up to Suffolk’s Court Services Unit, which also serves Isle of Wight, Franklin and Southampton as part of Virginia’s 5th Judicial Circuit. When Suffolk’s CSU issues a detention order, the police department or sheriff’s office with jurisdiction will acquire a “petition” or juvenile arrest warrant.

Isle of Wight County Attorney Bobby Jones earlier this year said the decision is typically based on a juvenile’s history of violence or the severity of a violent crime, such as robbery. A detained child’s case must be reviewed by the court every 21 days to determine if he or she remains a danger. Those who perform well in detention are typically released to a less restrictive alternative.

Those sentenced post-trial to a fixed term of incarceration are typically taken by Virginia’s Department of Juvenile Justice to a long-term facility such as the Bon Air juvenile correctional center in Chesterfield County.