- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Vincent N. Schiraldi will resign as director of the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services effective Jan. 31 to become New York City’s probation commissioner, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Monday.

Mr. Schiraldi appeared with his family at a press conference in New York, where Mr. Bloomberg applauded him as among the “smartest, more creative and capable” people in his field.

In a press release issued by DYRS after the New York announcement, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty credited Mr. Schiraldi with implementing programs for youth reform “that will serve as national best practices models for years to come.”

Mr. Fenty’s office did not respond to inquiries about the search for a replacement.

Appointed by former Mayor Anthony A. Williams in 2005, Mr. Schiraldi inherited a department on the brink of receivership and marred by the troubled Oak Hill Youth Center. He closed Oak Hill and the department now boasts a state-of-the-art $46 million facility, New Beginnings Youth Center.

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat and chairman of the Human Services Committee, said that under Mr. Schiraldi, the city is close to complying with a consent decree that arose from inhumane treatment at Oak Hill and that he helped reduce recidivism among juvenile offenders.

“At times I was frustrated with the system of releasing kids into the community,” Mr. Wells said, acknowledging that DYRS also has been the subject of criticism. “It requires case management. Some kids don’t respond and have to be locked up.”

Council member Michael A. Brown, at-large Democrat, said systemic problems with the District’s youth population are too big for one agency director to fix, and that Mr. Schiraldi was hindered by lack of coordination among social services providers and lack of vocational training available in D.C. Public Schools.

“There aren’t many tougher jobs in any city government,” he said of the director’s office.

Mr. Schiraldi’s critics in law enforcement said on Monday that he was not tough enough on youth offenders and that New Beginnings, which houses just 60 of the city’s 700 committed youth, is too small and too expensive to make a significant dent in youth violence.

He was “enabled by the Fenty administration” and “protected” by legislators, said Kristopher Baumann, chairman of the union that represents D.C. police officers, of Mr. Schiraldi. “There are few places where his policies will survive scrutiny. He used confidentiality laws to keep the public in the dark.”

Tasha Williams, chairwoman for the corrections officers union, said that teenage escapes from the New Beginnings youth detention center, overcrowding at the Youth Services Center on Mount Olivet Road in Northeast and poor communications with employees are issues that a new director should target for improvement.

On any given day, she said, there are 125 to 130 youths at the 88-bed Mount Olivet Road facility, where youths at various stages in the juvenile justice system are detained.

But Mr. Wells replied that Mr. Schiraldi can’t be blamed for the overcrowding.

“Judges are committing youth at a higher rate than they used to,” he said.

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