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Judicial Views on Confidentiality and Information Sharing in the Juvenile Justice System: A Survey of Virginia Juvenile Court Judges

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2001
49 pages
As part of a larger review and examination of confidentiality and information-sharing laws and practices among courts and agencies that serve juvenile offenders in Virginia, the University of Virginia Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy conducted a survey of 41 Virginia Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judges regarding information-sharing among involved agencies, confidentiality concerns, interpretations of relevant Virginia Code provisions, and proposed policy changes.
Survey findings were in the areas of court orders, Federal law and Virginia Code provisions, confidentiality protections, policy proposals, and ease of information sharing. To the extent revisions or amendments to the Virginia Code should be undertaken with judicial support, the results indicate several areas for code amendment, including provisions for disclosure of mental health information to law enforcement agencies in emergency situations, victim notification upon a violent juvenile offender's release from a juvenile correctional facility, and possibly the disclosure of delinquency adjudication and probation information to law enforcement agencies. Although judges did not favor allowing law enforcement agencies and schools greater access to juvenile records, slightly more than half the judges surveyed favored greater access by treatment providers and social service agencies; however, given that judges were somewhat split on this issue, along with the fact that there are many policy options or code revisions that might be proposed to achieve greater access, this set of policy issues will require further research and consideration. Further, the survey findings show that the imposition of penalties for breaches of confidentiality is virtually nonexistent. This may indicate that confidentiality breaches are rare or that confidentiality breaches go unnoticed because they do not negatively affect a client; it may also indicate that confidentiality protections are not enforced as they should be. The variability in judges' responses regarding whether juvenile records are expunged in their court suggests the need for more effective procedures and tracking systems to ensure the expungement of certain juvenile court records as required by the Virginia Code. Extensive graphic data and a copy of the survey questionnaire

Date Published: March 1, 2001