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Tomblin announces panel to review juvenile justice system

By Staff reports

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Thursday the members of a task force to review the state’s juvenile justice system.

Last month, the governor announced a comprehensive review of the juvenile system would be undertaken by the Pew Charitable Trust. The 26-member task force -- made up of members from all branches of state government -- is the first step in that review, Tomblin’s announcement said.

“By bringing together those in the community and working with experts like Pew, we can work together to identify ways to best serve our young people and prepare them to become contributing members of our communities,” Tomblin said in a written statement.

Officials will work with Pew and develop new policies, according to Tomblin.

The shuffle of juveniles to facilities around the state since the closure of Salem Industrial Home for Youth, a mid- to maximum-security facility, has caused major safety and overcrowding issues, officials with the state Department of Juvenile Services have said.

Members of the task force include: Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Davis; Steve Canterbury, Supreme Court administrator; Stephanie Bond, director of the Division of Juvenile Services; Victoria Jones, commissioner of the state Bureau for Behavior Health and Health Facilities; Nancy Exline, commissioner of the state Bureau for Children and Families; Chuck Heinlein, superintendent of the state Board of Education; Carolyn Stuart, executive director of the state Herbert Henderson Office of Military Affairs; John Bord, Taylor County prosecuting attorney; Vanessa Welch, a juvenile public defender in Harrison County; Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster; Elaine Harris, Kanawha County representative of the Communications Workers of America; Rev. Matthew Watts, CEO of HOPE Community Development; Kathy Smith, a parent advocate from Barbour County; Rick Jones, principal of John Marshall High School; Nicholas Circuit Judge Gary Johnson; Mercer Circuit Judge Omar Aboulhosn; Berkeley Circuit Judge Michael Lorensen; Cindy Largent Hill, director of the state’s Juvenile Justice Commission of Morgan County, and Nikita Jackson, a school-based juvenile probation officer in Cabell County.

Six members of the Legislature will also serve on the task force.

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