- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 29, 2012

Two youths and a corrections officer were taken to a hospital after dangerous incidents over the weekend at the District’s secure facility for juveniles in Laurel, officials said Sunday.

The youth offenders, aged 16 and 17, were taken from the New Beginnings Youth Development Center to nearby Laurel Regional Hospital Saturday night after smoking what officials said was marijuana laced with a chemical believed to be PCP.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat who oversees the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), said he was still gathering facts but that officials believed the contraband was smuggled in on Saturday, which was a visitation day.

One of the youths defecated on himself and began talking incoherently and the other began having a seizure-like reaction, according to representatives for the corrections officers who staff the facility. One youth has been discharged from the hospital back to New Beginnings, while the other remained hospitalized on Sunday night.

“This is serious,” Mr. Graham said on Sunday night. “This raises still more questions about how secure our secure facility is.”

In a separate incident, a corrections officer named Kevin Stith, aged 36, was jumped and beaten at a secure unit on the New Beginnings campus on Sunday afternoon by three youths between the ages of 15 and 18, corrections representatives said. He was in the hospital on Sunday night where he received stitches in his mouth and was treated for injuries to his eye socket and his head.

The corrections officials, who spoke with The Washington Times on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized by DYRS Director Neil A. Stanley to talk with reporters, said Mr. Stanley closed down the unit where the beating occurred, resulting in a consolidated population on another unit that included youths from rival neighborhoods.

In recent weeks, Mr. Stanley and Deputy Mayor Beatriz “B.B.” Otero, who oversees DYRS on behalf of Mayor Vincent C. Gray, have said public safety is the agency’s No. 1 priority. DYRS has had to replace security doors at New Beginnings recently because the detained youth were finding it too easy to pop the locks, resulting in other guard beatings.

The Times reported this month that more than 50 youths committed to DYRS custody and classified as medium to high risk of re-offending and placed outside New Beginnings in supervised community settings have either been killed or convicted of a homicide in the last five years.

A call and an email to a spokesman for Mr. Gray were not returned on Sunday night.

“Two wards and an employee in the hospital in one weekend is intolerable,” Mr. Graham said of the conditions at New Beginnings. “We have to be very honest with ourselves because this is not working, and we need to fix it.”