Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, December 05, 2016

DC's youth sentencing program, recidivism, and failures at "rehabilitation"

DC's Youth Rehabilitation Act stresses the opportunity for rehabilitation over trying youths as "adults" with the possibility of very long adult sentences if found guilty, instead sentencing youths to much shorter terms, no terms but with monitoring, etc.

For many many years, Washington Post columnist Colbert King has been writing about the failures of the DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services to properly manage, monitor, and rehabilitate youth criminals, recounting many many terrible incidents where youths and young adults under the supervision of DYRS commit heinous acts.

Because of a string of some particularly bad incidents ("How an accused rapist kept getting second chances"), the Washington Post did an investigation and published a very long piece yesterday, "Second-chance law for young criminals puts violent offenders back," about the systemic problems.

Note that the Washington Times ran a series about problems with DYRS back in 2010:

-- "Part 1: Youths lost to violence often in city's supervision"
-- "Part 2: DYRS wards increasingly violence-prone"
-- "Part 3: 'Anti-prison' at root of DYRS problems"
-- "Part 4: Violent crime of DYRS wards knows no bounds"

Why can't the model of the DC Pretrial Services Agency be applied to the youth criminal justice system?  Interestingly, for adults accused of crimes, DC's pretrial supervision/incarceration system is considered a national model, and DC is a national leader in limiting incarceration and not requiring bail.

The DC Pretrial Services Agency unit of the court system manages this process and for the most part "gets it right," limiting incarceration to the people with the greatest propensity for violence.  (Of course, the system is not perfect.)

-- The D.C. Pretrial Services Agency: Lessons From Five Decades of Innovation and Growth, Pretrial Justice Institute

It does not appear that the youth criminal evaluation and monitoring system has developed in a similar fashion.

Without such a rigorous system, the liberal-progressive approach of giving youthful criminals the benefit of the doubt, tends to be quite problematic, as the most recent Washington Post investigation, the many many columns by Colbert King, and the previous coverage by the Washington Times indicate.

Other approaches to reducing youth crime.  While Operation Ceasefire in Boston ("Straight Outta Boston," Mother Jones) focused on gangs, it was part of a broader program called the Boston Strategy to Reduce Youth Violence, and the combined approach is relevant to interdicting youth violence more generally, and is definitely worth taking up in DC, along with approaches comparable to the "Los Angeles police department "Community Safety Partnership".
The Boston Strategy to Prevent Youth Violence has three essential elements. The most concrete, visible element consists of programs: key law enforcement programs, Operation Night Light and Operation Cease Fire; and a broad array of prevention and intervention programs. A second key element is the principles that inspire and guide those programs and make them effective. The third element is the most intangible, but also the most indispensable. It is the collaborative, problem-solving process by which the principles and programs were developed. ...

Operation Night Light is a partnership between police and probation that provides the court with a tool to enforce the terms of probation. Teams of police and probation officers together make evening visits to the homes of youthful probationers to ensure the terms of probation are being met.
Interestingly, Mayor Bowser proposed a program similar to Boston's Operation Night Light, but for adult criminals, in the wake of DC's uptick in murders, as part of a broader set of anti-crime initiatives, and it was opposed by community activists.

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At 8:31 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Yep, zero interest in the council.

Again, on home rule+, what DC needs is the ability to tax commuters and return power to a local DA.

The current AG running juvenile justice is not moving the ball on that which is why we have to rely on the US attorney.

Good point on pre-trial diversion.

On the Bowser program, not sure it was community activists or the liberal council members who squealed. Bowser's proposal sounded more onerous that the quick link to the Boston one. But the idea is sound.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Had a disturbing conversation with a Capitol Hill stalwart who figures the next mayor will be Vincent Gray and after that, Karl Racine.

As I have written in comment threads before, I was naive about the elected AG position, believing that they would take the overall agenda to heart, of building a robust agency that would be able to make a great case for devolving criminal justice fully to the city.

It ain't happening.

(Similarly, although this was before Racine, my recriminations about the AG office of cy pres matters concerning museums like the Corcoran, but also more robust review of nonprofit actions more generally, as needed. e.g., sales of property, Cultural Dev. Corp., YMCA Dupont Circle, etc.)

At 8:55 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I just ran into Vince a few weeks ago and told him to run again.

This business on the City Administrator and the Ft Meyer contracts may be the end of Bowser. Very very very bad.

The sad part is she is learning. Realized the homeless shelters were a bad idea. Wants better crime proposals and money to for US attorneys. Even doing a good job sucking up to Ivana and the Donald.

Her biggest mistakes right now is continuing to listen to affordable housing proponents which are screwing up the real estate contraction pipeline.

(roadside can't get financing to build that many affordable housing units in a condo).

Racine has been an absolute disaster, and that was apparent from the get go.

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Richard Lake is a smart guy. It's very hard with small properties to make that many affordable units pencil out. If he can't make it work, then it's likely unworkable as his firm probably has exemplary access to financing.

FWIW, I don't have a problem with Vince Gray being mayor again, although I do think it's likely he knew what was going on... but even so, he's a decent administrator but not big on vision. (The ED "strategy" document done by the biz schools was pretty plebeian -- didn't mention transit as a fundamental element of the city's competitive advantage, was minimal on tourism, needed to be definitive on broadening the city's economy.)

I didn't vote for KR but I can't claim that the alternatives would have been significantly different.

WRT MB learning, that's good. It'd have been better had that process started earlier when she was on Council.

The thing that the beginning of her term communicates with the rise in the murder rate, some high profile crimes that killed or hurt white people (the guy killed by the Shaw Metro, the lady raped on Capitol Hill, etc.) + BLM, is that elected officials mostly end up responding to events, it's hard to control an agenda long term.

But it helps to have a really good agenda to start...


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