- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 29, 2005

D.C. police Chief Charles H. Ramsey yesterday criticized D.C. laws that keep secret the locations of, and other information about, convicted juveniles released to group homes or families.

He told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that his officers need to know if young offenders are living in D.C. neighborhoods. If officers saw a new spate of robberies in an area, he said, it would be helpful for them to know that a juvenile offender had recently arrived there.

Chief Ramsey said the information also would help them protect young offenders released into neighborhoods, such as Marcell Merritt, 16, of Southeast, found dead two weeks ago after police lost track of him following his release from a detention center.

“There’s no reason for us not to have the basic information as law enforcement,” he said.

Also yesterday, federal lawmakers and city criminal justice officials presented competing ideas for the future of the District’s embattled Oak Hill Youth Detention Center.

All agreed with last year’s D.C. Council decision to shutter the center in Anne Arundel County, which houses about 190 juvenile offenders from the District. But they disagreed sharply on where the replacement for the run-down, ill-equipped facility should be built.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat whose district includes part of Anne Arundel County, testified that he has introduced legislation recommending that the center be moved into the city.

But D.C. Superior Court Judge Eugene Hamilton, who served on the committee that recommended Oak Hill’s closure, said the center needs to be somewhere that offers the combination of fresh air and open space and is within visiting distance of the District.

“It’s not just a building,” Judge Hamilton said. “It’s a residential facility in an appropriate setting.”

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