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“The moment we opened New Beginnings it was too small. And I’m struggling with that now,” said Robert Hildum, interim director at DYRS.

John Walker, a representative of the labor union that represents DYRS employees, has worked with juveniles for more than 30 years and in the District since 1986. A persistent critic of DYRS management, Mr. Walker agrees that New Beginnings is simply inadequate.

“The limited bed space at New Beginnings is a major cause of DYRS‘ problems,” he said. “Sixty beds are not reflective of the number of youth committed to DYRS.”

The arrangement — by necessity as much as by design — leaves some 500 juveniles either in home placement or at group homes in the District. About 130 or so juveniles are in the custody of the city’s adult detention system.

That leaves another 200 youths arrested for violent offenses, for sexual-related crimes or needing drug rehabilitation services to be shuffled among Residential Treatment Centers across the country, such as Canyon State in Arizona, at costs of from $250 to $300 per youth, per day. The number of committed juveniles in such facilities has nearly doubled since March 2009, when there were 110 DYRS wards at the centers.

“The fact that we have a few hundred of our youth in RTCs spread across the country, the fact that we have a 60-bed facility here in D.C., I think is disturbing to me that we send so many of our youth out of the District,” Mr. Hildum said.

The youths treated out of state inevitably return. In need of transitional services of their own, they are added to a population of DYRS wards already in community placement, settings where a recent report by the D.C. attorney general’s office said services were found lacking and oversight was inadequate.

Some say the arrangement also has left the District with an increasing juvenile crime problem. An analysis by The Times found that in the year from Sept. 1, 2009, to Aug. 31, at least 15 city wards were among the 110 people publicly identified by police or prosecutors as being arrested for or charged with homicide. Another 14 city wards were among the 130 publicly identified homicide victims.

In some cases, Mr. Hildum says, DYRS officials are not even aware that youth have returned to the District from out-of-state facilities. Not to mention that while they are at out-of-state facilities, DYRS has little control over what happens to them.

The D.C. youths who participated in the Arizona melee, for example, spent the three days after the fight in the Maricopa County Jail run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio — “America’s toughest sheriff” — and were released without being formally charged. They were on their own for several more days before Canyon State officials caught them and arranged for them to be transported back to the District.

When they got to Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport, at least one of the group broke away from an escort until airport security apprehended him and DYRS officers took him back into custody.

The youths, as is common with those described as “awaiting placement,” were taken to New Beginnings. And that became a problem in itself.

New Beginnings

Mr. Schiraldi, who declined to be interviewed for this series, left the District in January to run the New York City Department of Probation. His like-minded colleague and former chief of staff, Marc Schindler, was named his interim replacement, but he too has since been replaced.

One day last spring, Mr. Schindler led a tour of New Beginnings that is familiar to any politician, parent, advocate or journalist who has visited the campus. To great effect, the tour begins at the facility that New Beginnings replaced: Oak Hill Youth Center.

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