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ACEs in the Criminal Justice System

Discussion and sharing of resources in working with clients involved in the criminal justice system and how screening for and treating ACEs will lead to successful re-entry of prisoners into the community and reduced recidivism for former offenders.

Culpeper conversation continues about impacts of childhood stress []

Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court Judge Frank Somerville believed at the start of his career that incarceration was a primary solution to societal ills.

“One of the things that you thought you could do is jail your way out of the problems. If you just put everybody in jail, everybody would get cured, we wouldn’t have any more problems, Culpeper would be safer and we’d save money,” he said during a panel discussion last week at the State Theatre about the societal impacts of trauma.

On the bench since 1994, Somerville soon figured out jail was not the only answer.

“Then the question was, what works?” he said. “It’s a question of affecting outcomes, but also of being effective stewards of our community’s financial resources. If we are going to spend $100,000 on somebody and not change their behavior then we’ve wasted our money.”

Looking beyond incarceration for solutions, Somerville in 2003 locally adopted the Best Practices Courts of Virginia program with a goal of improving the response of the judicial system to children and their families. A few years later, the judge started incorporating the 10-question Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACE, questionnaire that helps assess the level of trauma a child has experienced in the areas of parental abuse, addiction, neglect, divorce, mental illness or incarceration.

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