Trenton, NJ - Gov. Jon S. Corzine today nominated Veleria N. Lawson, an associate member of the New Jersey State Parole Board, to be the new executive director of the Juvenile Justice Commission.
If confirmed, Lawson, 57, would succeed Howard Beyer, who retired in August. Thomas Flanagan, the deputy executive director of the JJC, has been serving as acting executive director since September.
The Juvenile Justice Commission is part of the Department of Law & Public Safety. Lawson’s nomination was recommended by Attorney General Anne Milgram. A confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled for Feb. 14.
A parole board member since January 2004, Lawson has been assigned to the juvenile panel and has worked directly with the Juvenile Justice Commission and its programs to rehabilitate juvenile offenders. A licensed clinical social worker, Lawson also has worked during her extensive career as a school social worker in Middletown and Lakewood and at the Arthur Brisbane Child Treatment Center in Wall Township.
“Val Lawson has devoted a career that has stretched for more than three decades to helping children and counseling children with mental health issues,’’ Milgram said. “Her experience in dealing with troubled kids and families in crisis make her extraordinarily well prepared to lead the Juvenile Justice Commission.’’
“I am honored by the trust Gov. Corzine and Attorney General Milgram have placed in my ability to be the executive director of the Juvenile Justice Commission,’’ Lawson said. “If confirmed by the State Senate, I will devote all my energies to ensuring that the JJC fulfills its mission of turning around the lives of kids who broke the law at alarmingly early ages, and put them on a productive and lawful path.’’
“As a State Parole Board Member, Ms. Lawson brought a commitment to justice as well as a heartfelt compassion for the juvenile offenders in each case,” State Parole Board Chairman Peter J. Barnes Jr. said. “I was impressed by the way she personally engaged with each of these juveniles, encouraging them to think about what they had done, and about their future in society. Her background as a school social worker was very much in evidence by the positive responses she received from these young residents. Based on her experience I believe Ms. Lawson is an excellent choice to lead the Juvenile Justice Commission.”
Lawson is one of two appointed State Parole Board Members exclusively assigned to decide parole matters related to juvenile offenders housed in Juvenile Justice Commission and Department of Corrections institutions. She personally interviews juvenile residents on a regular basis to help them develop short-term and long-term goals toward changing their lives and building a productive, law-abiding future. She also worked with government and community groups to help ensure juvenile offenders have access to programs and support designed to aid in their successful reentry into society.
She was a school social worker for more than 19 years for the Middletown Board of Education, serving on child study teams. She had similar responsibilities as a child study team member for the Lakewood Township Board of Education for four years before working in Middletown.
Lawson started her career in New Jersey in January 1974 as a social worker at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, providing clinical services to clients with psychosocial problems.
Lawson, who lives in Manalapan, received a bachelor of arts in sociology from Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1972, and earned a masters degree in social work in 1973 from the Howard University School of Social Work in Washington, D.C.