RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The community group, Art 180, packed the room at the General Assembly on Wednesday, pushing lawmakers to find alternatives to youth incarceration ahead of plans to open two new youth prisons here in the commonwealth.

Art 180 Program Coordinator, Gina Lyles says, “We believe that prisons don’t work for youth. we also believe that there are alternatives to incarceration and restorative justice is one of those things.”

She, along with other members of Art 180, are hoping to convince state legislators to redirect money set to build two new youth prison, into funding for alternative programs to keep kids from behind bars.

“A lot of that money could be invested into making sure these youth have mentors, peer mentors, more community centers, rebuilding our community centers, putting that money into more programs in schools.”, says Lyles.

Christopher Rashad Green is a community activist in Richmond who knows first hand the impact that restorative justice measures can have on a person’s life.

He says, “Being formally incarcerated, i’m a living testimony of what can be done with alternative programs and a lot of help and support. because many of us don’t, many of our youth are lost and fall into this hole.”

Mark Strandquist, Creative Director for the Performing Statistics Project at Art 180, says with help from local NPR affiliates recording the voices of kids currently behind bars, Virginia lawmakers can hear from them first hand.

“Incarcerated youth themselves are experts that society should be listening to. So, we’re using this project as a way to be a megaphone for youth whose voices have been silenced or excluded from these political spaces,” said Strandquist.

One of those youth prisons is set to open in Chesapeake, the other will replace a facility in Bon Air.This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.        Never miss another Facebook post from 8NewsFind 8News on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to