The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority Board on Thursday approved Superintendent Russ Gilkison to look into what is involved in allowing the jail to house teenagers who have been tried as an adult in the courts.
The request came after a December arrest by the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office of a 17-year-old-boy on charges out of Broadway. Those charges of felony eluding, driving with a suspended license, driving an unlicensed vehicle, speeding and reckless driving stem from an incident that occurred in November 2018.
The teenager had previously, on a different matter, been tried as an adult. Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter said the teenager was indicted in 2017 in Shenandoah County and charged as an adult on the following charges:
• An abduction charge of feloniously by use of force, intimidation or deception, and without legal justification, seize, take, transport, detain, or secrete a victim, with the intent to deprive her of personal liberty.
• Conspiracy of feloniously by use of force, intimidation or deception, and without legal justification, seize, take, transport, detain, or secrete a victim, with the intent to deprive her of personal liberty.
• A malicious wounding charge of feloniously and maliciously cut, wound, or by any means cause bodily injury to a victim with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill the victim.
• Conspiracy of feloniously and maliciously cut, wound, or by any means cause bodily injury to a victim with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill the victim.
At the meeting, Gilkison noted, “once a juvenile is adjudicated (tried in the courts) as an adult, they are always considered an adult (in criminal matters.”
That means, as in this case, if they are arrested again, they cannot be housed in a juvenile detention center. They must be housed in a jail that has been certified to hold a juvenile offender considered an adult, he explained.
The regional jail is not certified to house juveniles.
“They cannot even walk in the doors, nor can we transport them,” he explained.
That left the teenager in a no-man’s-land as deputies, jail officials and magistrates for about five hours on a Friday evening in December tried to determine where to transport him. Eventually, the teenager was given an unsecured bond and released, Gilkison said.
“I have only seen that once in 20 years,” Carter said.
The nearest jails certified to house a juvenile tried as an adult are near Staunton and in Prince William County.
Gilkison said the juvenile could not be in sight of, or able to hear, anyone in the adult jail population. That would mean he would have to go into a unit by himself, essentially in solitary confinement where his only contact would be with guards.
Gilkison stressed that is not healthy, and said if he had to house a child for a longer period, he would quickly start looking for a facility that is housing another juvenile so they could be housed together.
The service of housing juveniles tried as adults would only be provided to the three-member counties and not to outside counties, Gilkison said.
The matter is complicated by drafted legislation that, if approved, would eliminate the need for jails to be certified for juveniles in adult jail populations by both the Department of Corrections and the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. It would allow courts to transfer a juvenile to jail as long as the jail meets federal and state law, he said.
Gilkison said that if they were to start housing teenagers, he would rather do it now under the stricter certification process that he said he feels would offer greater liability protection.
Gilkison asked members if they wanted him to look into what is required to be certified.
Carter and Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron both agreed that in their opinion it does not hurt to look into what is required to become certified. The remaining board members in attendance agreed. Those at the meeting were Conrad Helsley of the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors; Rappahannock County Administrator Garrey Curry, Jr.; Daniel Murray Jr. of the Warren County Board of Supervisors; Shenandoah County Administrator Mary Price.
Gilkison will bring that information back before the board at a future meeting.