- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sparing the rod does more than spoil the child.

It puts children and the public at large at risk, too.

Case in point: An 18-year-old who was being monitored and serviced by two D.C. agencies outsmarted authorities by intentionally draining the battery on his tracking bracelet. In and out of the juvenile justice system since age 14, Kevon M. Austin now faces charges in the fatal shooting of a man near Gallaudet University in Northeast on Oct. 10.

The killing occurred a day after Mr. Austin received the electronic monitoring device, my colleague Andrea Noble reported Tuesday.

Because Mr. Austin was only a child when he began tangoing with the justice system, his current entanglement easily can be a perfect example of the ongoing debate about whether juvenile justice policies should lean toward tough punitive programs or lenient rehabilitative services.

For its part, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services recently tweeted that “No DYRS youth charged w/homicide in 2012 so far.” Until Mr. Austin, that is.

DYRS‘ backslapping tweet followed extensive reporting by The Washington Times in 2010 and 2011 that showed 1 in 5 homicides in the city involved a DYRS ward who became either a victim or a suspect.

Couple that investigation with a probe by WJLA-TV (Channel 7), which reported in August that dozens of youths enrolled in an organization called D.C. YouthLink had been killed or arrested for killing other people.

And here’s the kicker, folks: Ms. Noble’s story cited Mr. Austin’s take on the D.C. juvenile justice system.

“I ain’t doing nothing for this, then I’m a be right back out here,” he said.

No explanation needed, right?

D.C. Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat and a member of the committee that oversees the Department of Human Services and youth-rehabilitative programs, said he was “outraged” by the results of the Channel 7 probe.

Well, hey, so are the taxpayers who are funding such groups but getting revolving doors and more bloodshed in return.

By the way: Is it put up or shut up time for Mr. Barry?

Up for re-election in November and facing a small measure of competition from an independent opponent, Mr. Barry wants to plug the financial hole and end funding for groups that do not succeed in rehabilitating youths and guiding them along the straight and narrow.

“We have to do something to stop abusing our young people like that [and] giving money to groups that don’t perform,” Mr. Barry said. “Contracts ought to be cut instantly when that happens so people get the message.”

No argument here about the abuse.

But if Mr. Barry and other members of the council Committee on Human Services really and truly want people to get the message, he and committee Chairman Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, need to stem the stench flowing from the Department of Human Services and DYRS.

Mr. Austin’s case exposes the blood that is pooling on their laps.

Update: On Monday, my column focused on a school truancy hearing that was scheduled to be held Tuesday before the D.C. Council’s Committee of the Whole.

After contacting committee director Evan Cash on Tuesday to ask why the hearing did not happen, he said it had been postponed until Nov. 8.


School Chancellor Kaya Henderson had a “family emergency.”

Life happens, but the central question remains: What, precisely, is D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray doing to combat school truancy?

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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