CM Graham Updates Community on Broken Juvenile Crime System

Most agree that the juvenile criminal system is broken in DC. Sometimes it takes a major tragedy to kickstart reforms. I hope this is a real first step toward reform. Following is an update from CM Jim Graham (Ward-1) on what is being done (from CH Listserv):

“Over the last couple of weeks we have engaged in a productive discussion about the juvenile and adult justice systems. Many of us have been working hard at this for a long time. I appreciate the dialogue and suggestions of so many of you.

The horrible series of shootings in Southeast that left 5 dead, including 4 teenagers, and five others wounded has angered and saddened all of us. This shooting could have happened anywhere in the city. I have had several conversations with the great-aunt of 16 year old Brishell Jones, who happens to live in Ward One. I also was moved by the testimony of Brishell’s mother and grandmother on Monday.

The cycle of retaliatory youth related violence and the revolving doors in our juvenile justice system must stop.

I continue my work on education, jobs, training, substance abuse treatment and other opportunities for young people.

I want successful rehabilitation programs for youthful offenders–but, when those programs are not successful, I want secure detention to protect the youth, and the rest of us.

Yesterday, I introduced a bill, along with my colleagues Tommy Wells and Phil Mendelson, that will establish a Commission on Juvenile Justice Reform. The Commission will review current policies, outcomes and resources at the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and the Family Court Social Services. The 9 member Commission will consist of 3 representatives selected by the Mayor, 3 selected by Council Chair Vincent Gray and 3 selected by Chief Judge Lee Satterfield.

Continues after the jump.

The overall goal of the Commission is to make recommendations to the Council on legislative actions to maximize rehabilitation resources and efforts for offenders before they are committed to DYRS. And, in the cases of repeat, violent juvenile offenders that are committed to DYRS, actions required to increase the capacity of DYRS to provide both secured detention and ongoing rehabilitation.

On a related issue, the third Joint Roll Call of MPD Officers and Special Police Officers along the 14th St corridor will be on Friday, April 23, at the # 10 Boys and Girls Club. Over 20 Metropolitan Police Department and SPO’s have participated in each of the previous two. The roll calls are held once a week and will increase in frequency during the summer. They are intended to improve coordination of effort and information sharing among MPD and the private security companies along the corridor, especially in the public spaces between the different properties.

Just as important, community based organizations are working intensively with the most involved gang and crew members, their siblings, and families. Some of the “beefs” between groups are so old many of the young people engaged now in violence have no idea why they are beefing. Community groups are working hard to redirect young people back into educational and vocational opportunities, and provide day to day, intensive mentoring and support.

I want to thank everyone for their commitment and hard work. We will stay on this.

Bests, CM Jim Graham”

29 Comment

  • Finally, finally, some steps toward what we all know requires some new direction. The old way is so broken it’s a disgrace to the nation. We can only hope the commission solves this problem, and doesn’t just kick around ideas to no avail. How about some Emergency Legislation like now (entitled the Betts Bill) – Mandatory minimums for all ages for gang violence, gun possession, homicide, perhaps even a youth offender registry. And reinstitute funding for nonprofits working in these communities.

  • I fully, completely agree that something needs to change. But establishing a Commission to “review current policies, outcomes and resources” is BS. It’s going to take months to get the commission established and funded. More months for it to start its review. Many, many more months to agree on recommendations. More months to get the City Council to draft and vote on a bill. And then how many more months before that bill is implemented?

    In the meantime, the status quo.

    • Commission = way to look like you are on top of an issues without having to actually “do” anything

      • For that you really need a blue ribbon panel and a 9-month investigation to Hawaii to see how they deal with juvenile justice. At the end of 9 months, the panel will release a report that says insufficient data is available and further study is needed in the Cayman Islands.

  • how about phil mendehlson not be involved?

  • Dreas you said the key word “funding”. They won’t do anything without getting paid for it. They could do an emergency bill now, it ain’t like they got to study anything to know what is wrong. If they get a committee together then they can ask for funding and admin jobs for their relatives and drag that out long as possible to get the cash then they might consider working on it by extending the summer jobs program (payoff) to year round students who choose not to attend school.

    I say pay a new group of people to beat the hell out of any kid that is not in school between 7am and 3pm daily making at least a B average or stands around on a street corner without reading a book, and lump their parents in for the beating too until something changes. Give me some funding, I’ll work it out. : )

  • I did not see one mention of the parents. How can Graham or anyone else be serious without involving the parents?

  • Did all the crews get the same memo? Go out and abduct and cause harm to school employees. First Betts and anow this….

    A Wilson High School student is under arrest, charged with abducting one of his teachers. D.C. Police said the teen and an accomplice, believed to be an adult, accosted the teacher as she left her part-time job early Saturday morning in Adams Morgan.

  • “I want successful rehabilitation programs for youthful offenders–but, when those programs are not successful, I want secure detention to protect the youth, and the rest of us.”
    We need protection FROM the youth, Jim.
    At any rate, enforcing the law has become politically incorrect and the system is paralyzed. Don’t see that changing anytime soon.

  • This all makes us want to buy expensive houses and start families here, right? 😉

    DC= “District of Crime” MD= “Murderland”

  • The Grahamstander has been in office for 12 years and this is what he comes up with now? In an election year? A commission?! Way to be on top of things Grahamstander…

  • Unverifiable scuttlebutt says Graham really wanted a revamped crime bill or “effort” and Mendelson would only go for a committee.

  • No surprise about Mendelson watering this effort down. Going after these kids’ parents is a fine idea, but in practice probably a non-starter. A lot of these kids are the way they are because their parents are the same way. Or in many cases, ‘parent’ or complete lack thereof.

    • If you are right, which I suspect, then no wonder Graham didn’t evne mention the parents. Heck there is no solution if the parents are the root of the problem. Well there is ONE solution. But most of you don’t have the stomach for that.

      • He can’t blame the parents – they’re potential voters. It’s why we’ll never have a juvenile justice program with teeth. All local DC politicians have to tread this thin line – that there’s always some ‘other’ cause of juvy crime.

  • Why does this guy still have a job?

    • Because 95 percent of the people who whine about him on blogs are too lazy to do anything to get him out of office.

  • How hard is it to lock people up and throw away the keys? You don’t need a commission for that.

  • It’s not hard. Just terribly expensive. Not to mention it is nto that effective at preventing crime. But be my guest, if you think locking people up will solve this problem.

  • Would this mean an overhaul for those so called ‘Peaceoholics’?

    read this article and you tell me

  • 1) I really don’t think this shooting “could have happened anywhere” in D.C. If one of these teenage gangbangers had run into someone he was “beefing” with in Georgetown and decided to spray bullets indiscriminately on Wisconsin Ave, N.W., there wouldn’t be any talk about any “studying” of current laws. The laws would be changed forthwith.

    2) I doubt that this Commission will tell me anymore about what’s wrong with the current system than what I already know from reading Colbert King’s excellent columns in the WPost. He’s been investigating and reporting the failings of DC’s juvenile justice system for years. There needs to be a realization that not every kid can be saved. Some are lost and not coming back. Do what can be done to not lose as many as possible. But the ones that are lost should be locked up for a long time, not just until they hit 19. The 14 year old who is now charged with 41 counts can be out of secure detention in 18 months if he plays his cards right. There is something wrong with that. As King (“Colbert”) says
    “The dirty little secret of D.C. is this: DYRS is a progressive idea gone wrong. The mayor knows it. His attorney general knows it. The D.C. Council committee overseeing DYRS knows it. No one knows it better than the juveniles who exploit it.”

      • THIRD!! We don’t need a Comi$$ion. This is just stalling for time until the summer payoff/internship programs begin.

        I know Bryan Weaver is reading this. So Weaver, what are YOU going to do?

        captcha: peril the

  • we should push for a public forum to discuss the commission findings and scream bull$hit where appropriate. i don’t think it’s asking too much to have juvenile detention standards on par with the rest of the country – or at least with neighboring localities. i’ll keep my eyes open for a response / commentary from King.

    i for one am happy to see the problem at least being discussed, and hopefully it will force counsel members to take individual stances on the issue in an election year – better yet if it is raised to the level of mayoral debate.

    ed – couldn’t have summed it up in a single sentence better. it’s too bad many of us who love the city’s potential will eventually end up voting with our feet

  • In order to fix the DC juvenile justice system, three things need to happen:

    1) Fix the law so that 14- and 15-year-olds can be prosecuted as adults in cases of murder and attempted murder. (Right now, 14-years-olds can’t be prosecuted as adults no matter how heinous the crime, and 15 year olds need special circumstances). This is a simple legislative fix — it doesn’t need special 9-member commissions, and delays while we appoint the members and get their reports.

    2) Fix the law so that juvenile judges can force DYRS to make appropriate placements of youths who need to be taken off the street. (Right now, once the judge commits a youth to DYRS, DYRS has absolute latitude to decide whether that youth goes to a secure facility for a substantial time, or whether he stays on, or goes right back to, the streets. DYRS clearly doesn’t have very good judgment on these matters — The bodies just keep piling up.)

    3) Find new leadership for DYRS that are willing to balance the agency’s existing (and laudable) goals of rehabilitation with a long-needed but totally neglected awareness of the community’s need for protection.

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