- Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — D.C. Working Group Aims to Reduce Arrests and Detention: The Washington, D.C. City Council passed a law to establish the “Alternatives to Juvenile Arrest and Secured Detention Working Group.” The city-wide working group is charged with studying all youth arrests starting with 2011, including data on the number and type of school-based arrests. The legislation mandates that the working group include representatives from community-based non-profit organizations, as well as educational institutions that represent court-involved youth or conduct research on local juvenile justice issues. The group is required to submit a report to the Mayor that “develops and proposes a differential response policy, program, and budget for juvenile arrests with the goal of diverting more youth from arrest, prosecution, overnight detention, or pre-trial detention.” After the formation of the working group was delayed, a privately convened group of advocates addressed the issues raised in the legislation and submitted a report to the City Council that calls for a comprehensive diversion pilot program in the city and a centralized mayoral strategy to reduce formal youth system involvement. B20-0199/A20-0157, passed September 6, 2013; effective December 24, 2013.
- Conditions of Confinement — D.C. Continues Progress Toward Ending Court Oversight of City’s Juvenile Justice System: In 1985, the Jerry M. class-action lawsuit was filed against the District of Columbia in D.C. Superior Court, alleging violations of health and safety standards in the District’s juvenile justice system (the case was settled via consent decree in 1986). In 2008, after 22 years of court supervision, the District and plaintiffs agreed upon a work plan with twelve goals that, once completed, would remove the District from court oversight. In 2011, the court vacated as complete three important goals under the work plan: 1) hold only detained youth at the Youth Services Center (the District’s facility for pre-trial detained youth); 2) substantially improve educational programming for youth held at the New Beginnings Youth Development Center; and 3) provide consistent daily exercise for youth detained at the Youth Services Center or confined at New Beginnings.
- Facility Closures and Downsizing — D.C. Closes Aged Juvenile Correctional Facility: During the summer of 2009, pursuant to legislation unanimously passed by the D.C. City Council, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services closed its juvenile correctional facility for committed youth, the Oak Hill Youth Center—notorious for its abusive and violent conditions—and replaced it with the New Beginnings Youth Development Center. New Beginnings has a rated capacity of 60 beds, a significant reduction from Oak Hill’s population, which at times surged to 240 youth in a facility with a capacity of 188. The living units at New Beginnings are designed to maximize the opportunity for positive youth development in a therapeutic milieu, and provide the least restrictive, most homelike environment consistent with public safety. Based on the decreases in the number of youth the city incarcerated—which ultimately enabled the closure of Oak Hill—D.C. avoided spending over $18.5 million dollars between 2005 and 2009. (This estimate is based on figures for 2009, when it cost $311,345 to incarcerate a youth for a year.)
- Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — D.C. Launches Lead Entities Services Coalition: During the fall of 2009, D.C.’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) launched the Lead Entities Services Coalition to provide wraparound positive youth development services to DYRS youth placed in the community. The purpose of the initiative is to provide and coordinate a wide range of services, supports, and opportunities identified for each youth through team meetings that actively involve all of the stakeholders in a young person’s life. During the first quarter after the launch of the service coalition, only 19 percent of youth placed in the community received services through the service coalition. As of the last quarter of FY 2011, over 85 percent of youth were receiving two or more services in the community. The coalition is now called D.C. Youthlink.