Andrew Block

Andrew Block served as the Director of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) from April, 2014 until April, 2019. Prior to his appointment as DJJ Director in 2014 by then Gov. Terry McAuliffe, he was an associate professor and director of the Child Advocacy Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law from 2010-2014. From 1998 until the spring of 2010 he was the founder and legal director of the JustChildren Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center. Block received various awards for his innovative and successful work as an advocate, including the American Bar Association Young Lawyer’s Division Child Advocacy Award, the Virginia State Bar’s Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year, and the Virginia Bar Association’s Robert F. Shepherd Jr. Award. Director Block graduated from Yale University in 1987 and from the Northwestern University School of Law in 1994. During his tenure as Director, DJJ transformed Virginia’s juvenile justice system, including using evidence-based probation practices across the state, safely reducing the number of youth in Juvenile Correctional Centers (JCCs), reforming reentry procedures and rehabilitative practices in the JCCs, engaging families, and reinvesting the savings from closing two JCCS into a statewide continuum of evidence-based programs and community-based supports and services.

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Jamal’s Story

On a hot summer day in 2012, Jamal Smith* and two friends robbed three different groups of people at gunpoint. Some were white and some were black. Some were old, and some young. They had nothing in common except that they were each undoubtedly terrified to have a gun in their face, and they cooperated with his demands. But he was scared also. As he says now, “I hated it. I was scared that they might have a gun, or I might use mine. I knew I was making them scared too.” But he was desperate. Desperate to earn for the gang he...

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We watch the video footage. These are the moments leading up to the discovery of the boy’s suicide. The grainy, black-and-white images show a staff member looking in the boy’s cell, calling for help, opening the cell door, and, with the assistance of some other residents, pulling the boy's limp body out onto the floor of the dayroom.  After watching the video, members of the Attorney General’s office and my staff jump into a conversation about the ongoing internal investigation into his death. I stop them mid-sentence and ask those present to tell me about...