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Part 3: ‘Anti-prison’ at root of DYRS problems
Limited bed space at local facility forces D.C. to move youths across U.S.
Question of the Day
The high number temporarily housed at New Beginnings left room for only 42 youths in the renowned rehabilitative program that the facility was designed to offer — a situation Mr. Hildum described as “distressing.”
“The only place we have to put kids awaiting placement is New Beginnings,” he said.
With a steady stream of high-risk youths coming into the system, but with nowhere to put them, DYRS ends up creating ad hoc spaces on campus to hold kids who dont have a place in the New Beginnings program.
“They know they are not going to be there long, and they cause problems,” he said. “You cant have dozens of kids passing through there. The facility cannot fulfill the promises we are making.”
Mr. Walker agrees that relying on New Beginnings as a temporary holding facility makes it less effective.
“No structure is the fundamental problem,” he said. “Youth are commingled with rival youth. It is just a holding place. There’s no programming for community placement. The unit is simply a revolving door. And once the youth realizes that there is a revolving door, there is no incentive to change behavior.”
Mr. Hildum seemed puzzled that the District built such a small facility in the first place. He said that as far as he could tell, the capacity was based on a recommendation that took up a paragraph of an 11-page report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
“I’m perplexed that we moved forward based on this, what I consider, fairly thin report.”
The report relied on crime data indicating that about 20 percent of the 260 youths estimated to be committed each year were convicted of offenses severe enough to require secure detention. But juvenile crime, especially serious crime, has spiked since 2006 when the calculations were made and by 2008 the number of commitments shot up to 340.
Asked why the facility was not built larger, Mr. Hildum said: “The concept is, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ So the theory is, if you build big facilities, you will fill them. The problem is, if you don’t build it, they still come.”
A recent report by D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles took aim at the overcrowding problem at New Beginnings. “To address this issue,” the Nickles report said, “DYRS needs a 20-30 bed secure facility for aftercare violators and another 15-20 bed secure facility for those awaiting placement.”
All signs point to the Arizona bunch eventually coming home to a system not equipped to handle them. After their repeated escapes and other disruptions, the kids at the center of the Canyon State melee were recaptured and ultimately shipped to secure facilities in other states — again.
They eventually returned to the District and committed new crimes:
In March, 19-year-old Jamal Hamilton was charged with armed robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon. In July, 19-year-old Kenneth Garner pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of a vehicle and later was sentenced to 30 months of youth confinement. That same month, 19-year-old Rashad Hough was charged with drug distribution while armed. Last month, he pleaded guilty to attempted distribution of cocaine and is due to be sentenced in December.
All three have had extensive enrollments in the juvenile system, at both Oak Hill and New Beginnings.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Matthew Cella is The Washington Times’ Metro editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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