[Mintwood-place] Graham Fights for Juvenile Justice Reforms
grahamwone at gmail.com
Mon Apr 26 11:41:47 EDT 2010
I am committed to reform of the Juvenile Justice system. The March 30
shootings in Southeast underscored the need for more transparency.
Last year, I authored legislation allowing the D.C. Council to review
juvenile records. Last week, I introduced legislation to improve
transparency of juvenile cases among the MPD, DYRS, CSS and other relevant
agencies. I have taken advantage of the law to review six case files. Those
reviewed files have led to good substantive changes in juvenile release
We need to stop the “revolving door” of juvenile offenders. Such offenders
have more to fear from the streets than they do from the courts and DYRS. We
need meaningful rehabilitation, or for those more serious offenders,
detention to the age of 21.
Please read my opinion
this that appeared in The Washington Post Sunday by clicking the link
Councilmember Jim Graham
*In D.C., a deadly disconnect on youth violence*
By Jim Graham
Sunday, April 25, 2010; C05
The March 30 shooting<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/31/AR2010033100707.html>that
left four teenagers dead and five others injured in Southeast
Washington exposes the lack of coordination between the city's youth and
adult criminal justice systems.
We have now learned that the 14-year-old boy who had been accused of taking
part in this crime was wrongly charged and has been fully exonerated. But
that doesn't put every question to rest. How is it that he was in a position
to get caught up in this story in the first place? As has been reported, he
had run away from a community-based residential treatment program under the
auspices of the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.
With regard to DYRS, my concerns peaked last year in the case involving Lafonte
Carlton was 15 in August 2006, when he admitted killing a man in Ward 1. He
spent two years in secured settings at a variety of locations -- until
November 2008, when DYRS released him back into the community with no
support services in place. Within two months, Carlton allegedly killed two
more people. He is now awaiting trial in adult court.
To break this cycle, we must bridge the chasm between DYRS and the Court
Social Services (CSS). Last year's "Blueprint for
a report on gang violence in the city prepared by the Healthy
Families/Thriving Communities Collaborative
stated the problem succinctly. "The District has two distinct systems
serving juvenile offenders," the report said. "This separation in care and
planning for D.C. youth offenders creates many structural barriers to good,
comprehensive planning and results in unnecessary threats to the youth and
Or, as one city official told me last week: "Something has to be done; we
are dealing with the same kids."
DYRS has been troubled for years. A decade ago, Mayor Anthony A. Williams
convened the Blue Ribbon Commission on Youth Safety and Juvenile Justice
Reform to address a plenitude of challenges with the agency. Among the
commission's welcomed recommendations was the closing of the rightly
maligned Oak Hill Youth Detention Center. But some of the results of its
other reforms may now need to be reconsidered -- such as the limited number
of beds at the New Beginnings Center and the hasty release of youths who
have committed serious crimes. We want the young people in DYRS's care to be
successful and safe when they return to our communities, but too often they
are released prematurely and without proper support.
We shouldn't forget that both of the adults first arrested in this case were
either under supervision or well known to the adult court system. Meanwhile,
there are 1,800 youths on CSS probation in the city. In other words, the
courts, and not the District government, have responsibility for 80 percent
of young offenders. Not enough is known about these young people. How well
are their mental health and substance abuse problems being diagnosed and
treated? Are they receiving all the local and federal social services they
are eligible for? Why are some of them committing new crimes?
According to the Council for Court Excellence<http://www.courtexcellence.org/>,
a young person will appear before a CSS judge three times on average before
he or she is committed to DYRS. But then, once the youth is committed, all
financial and supervisory responsibility for the case shifts away from CSS
to the District.
Recently, I met with D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield to
discuss these issues. He is as frustrated as I am, and he agrees that change
is needed. Giving the court limited authority to monitor cases it has
committed to DYRS could be a good first step, but more needs to be done.
Mayor Adrian Fenty, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Judge Satterfield should
immediately form a commission to develop reforms to increase coordination,
transparency and accountability among CSS, DYRS, the Metropolitan Police
Department and other agencies. The commission's recommendations should
include legislative actions the D.C. Council could take to expedite
information-sharing and services between all the involved agencies.
It is time to halt the revolving door of the juvenile justice system and get
our kids the help they deserve.
*The writer, a Democrat, represents Ward 1 on the D.C. Council*
I typically answer emails before 9 AM on weekdays. If you email me after
that, it is likely that you will hear from me the next weekday. If there is
a need to communicate prior to that, you may wish to call me.
Jim Graham, Councilmember, Ward One, 1350 Pa. Ave., NW, #105, Washington, DC
20004. 202-724-8181; 202-724-8109 (fax).
Chairman, Committee on Public Works and the Environment (including alcohol
regulation). Main Committee Number: 202-724-8195. 1350 Pa. Ave., NW, #116,
Washington, DC 20004.
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