Blog: Washington DC

Registration Now OPEN for Georgetown Conference on At-Risk Children and Youth

Georgetown University, the Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI), and the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) are pleased to announce that registration is now open for the inaugural Georgetown Public Policy Institute LEAD Conference (Leadership. Evidence. Analysis. Debate.): Positive Outcomes for At-Risk Children and Youth: Improving Lives Through Practice and System Reform.
The Georgetown Public Policy Institute LEAD Conference is an annual national event that brings together experts and key stakeholders to examine a particular policy challenge and discuss potential solutions. This year’s inaugural event will invite attendees to explore the following issues related to at-risk children and youth:

An Intriguing Look at Juvenile Justice in DC

The Urban Institute’s District of Columbia Crime Policy Institute recently released a report highlighting trends in youth placed in the custody of the DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), the District’s cabinet-level juvenile justice agency, between 2006 and 2011. The goal of the report was to better understand how and why the number of juveniles committed to the agency as a court disposition—or sentence—has changed over the past several years. In particular, it explores changes that followed a series of reforms launched by the agency in 2006 to improve the conditions of secure confinement and expand community-based alternatives for youth.
One of the most intriguing findings to emerge from the analysis of data collected by DYRS was a considerable increase in overall commitments (which include those placed in a secure facility and those served by DYRS in the community) between fiscal years 2006 and 2009, driven mainly by responses to youth adjudicated for misdemeanor offenses. Specifically, misdemeanor commitments accounted for 92 percent of the overall increase during this time period. They comprised a larger proportion of overall commitments in 2009 as well—at 44 percent of the total compared to 27 percent in 2006.
At the end of the report, the authors suggest a number of possible explanations for the increase in misdemeanor commitments, the two primary ones being an increase in the volume of misdemeanor cases and changing practices on the part of judges, who are responsible for deciding which youth should be committed to DYRS. Unfortunately, because of limited access to data they were unable to explore either explanation in great depth (the only trend data available were for overall arrests, petitions, and filings—not misdemeanors specifically).

Criminalizing Poor Youth in Washington, DC [infographic]

This morning, DC Lawyers for Youth (DCLY), launched a capital-wide campaign to reach out to kids, families, policymakers, practitioners and systems administrators to relay the errors in spending and judgement when it comes to juvenile justice.
DCLY asks whether it makes sense to spend tens of thousands on matriculating through the justice system, or successfully matriculating through school. They asks if spending should occur to lock kids up, or if investing should occur to employ youths and families. Community investment, responsible spending and responding to youth early on is the answer to making Washington, DC -- and cities nationwide - stronger and safer. 
Check out the full infographic after the jump.

A New Program to Reduce Truancy: Washington DC’s Case Management Partnership Initiative

The DC Crime Policy Institute recently released an interim evaluation on a new truancy intervention program (direct download the PDF here). The program, called the Case Management Partnership Initiative (CMPI), aims to reduce truancy by connecting truant students and their families with applicable services and case management. The assumption is that by helping to alleviate the underlying issues causing truancy, such as family problems, truancy as a whole will go down.
While the program has not yet shown that it reduces truancy, CMPI has ideas on how to improve the program moving forward. Via the report:

The CMPI does not seem to be reducing truancy on a scale that would warrant expanding the program in its present form. The program is promising, but warrants modification, enhancement, and further experimentation. Among many possible modifications that might strengthen the program, this evaluation suggests several for consideration.

  • The program may be starting too late to improve the chances for improved attendance in ninth grade, and may need to start months to a year earlier.
  • The program may want to explore modifications to its eligibility criteria. This may involve additional assessments to identify key drivers of truancy before participation in the program, exploring full attendance histories (rather than prior year only), and/or targeting the program to students with a narrower range of prior truancy. Other student and family characteristics, such as academic need and performance, may also be incorporated into existing criteria.
  • Additional program components may be beneficial. For example, the program’s family focus could be supplemented with a component that focuses intensively on the student’s academic performance. Family mental health needs may also warrant increased attention.

Washington’s Struggles to Treat Mentally Ill Youth Reflective Of National Dilemma

Reports show many youth in Washington D.C. under the Medicaid umbrella are being left behind as their mental health disorders go untreated, leaving them at high risk for a run-in with the juvenile justice system.
In the nation’s capital, Medicaid covers at least 18,629 youth who are in need of mental health care treatment, according to the Justice Policy Institute. More than half are not receiving help, as stigma and an ineffective treatment system stand in the way of children receiving care, the group found.
But catching a problem early and treating it is crucial because children with untreated mental illnesses are at a higher risk for teenage pregnancy, poverty, poor performance in school, and none to intermittent employment. All of these factors weigh into the equation of children winding up in a justice system that research shows only worsens the cycle.
The problem, which is widespread in many urban areas including Chicago, is prevalent in D.C. because of the location of the RTCs – or residential treatment centers, which are sometimes hundreds of miles away – meaning parents can be separated from their children, with no visits, for months at a time, according to some experts.

TONIGHT: NBC Profiles Maya Angelou Academy, School Inside Juvenile Correctional Facility

Tonight, on Rock Center with Brian Williams, correspondent Chelsea Clinton goes inside the Maya Angelou Academy, the school located within the District of Columbia's long-term youth correctional facility. Here's a preview clip:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
From the clip's description:

Let's Give Kids Better Mental Health

“People are just not reaching us where we are at. We want to be reached.” – Washington, D.C. focus group youth participant.
The mental well-being of our youth is crucial to achieving progress and prosperity in our communities. In Washington, DC, youth face particular challenges as disparities in resources and risks vary drastically in just a matter of miles. I wrote JPI’s report, Mindful of the Consequences: Improving the Mental Health for DC’s Youth Benefits the District, to show that current prevention and treatment services do not match the level of need and many youth are at risk for contact with the justice system due to untreated mental problems. To illustrate this, I mapped where arrested youth are coming from: predominately areas of low income and high rates of risk factors that impact mental well-being.
The general attitude toward youth living in these areas (both with and without juvenile justice involvement) has been fear and blame. However, as I prepared to begin writing this report, I came across a few quotes gathered from a focus group with youth on the various challenges that come with growing up in D.C. These youth commented on what they needed…

“If they gave different programs to fit the criteria to why you were locked up, services that help you specifically, maybe even invest in psychologists.”
“Guidance and someone there they can look up to that is on the right path. Support other than tutoring, someone they can talk to sometimes if they have a problem.”

Teens in Juvenile Justice System Creating Hope and Opportunity through The Beat Within's Writing and Art Program

For the better part of the last two decades, The Beat Within has been committed to a mission of providing incarcerated youth with a forum where they can write (and draw) about the things that matter most to them, explore how they have lost connection with those things they value, and consider how they might re-connect to positive situations in their lives through the power of the written word.
This is a program that started small, in the Bay Area, with a commitment to provide detained kids between the ages of 11 to 18 with a safe space to share their ideas and experiences while promoting literacy, self-expression, some critical thinking skills, and healthy, supportive relationships with adults and their community.
That modest local effort has grown into a nationwide program that touches the lives of more than 5,000 youth in detention. Today, you can find weekly Beat workshops going on in 12 California county juvenile halls, from Alameda to San Diego. We are partnering with universities from U.C. Berkeley to the University of Hawaii. Meanwhile, the workshop model for The Beat is being replicated in Arizona, Texas, Alabama, New Mexico, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and, thanks to the JJIE, Georgia.

Working for a Better Future: Improving Public Safety by Employing Youth

In Washington, D.C., a robust and holistic employment program for youth is key to building positive life outcomes for the District’s teens and creating safer communities. In our most recent research brief, Working for a Better Future: How expanding employment opportunities for D.C.’s youth creates public safety benefits for all residents, the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) describes how youth unemployment in D.C. ranges between 1.6 and 2.3 times the national average and how increases in youth employment rates have been linked to decreased rates of arrest in the city.

Having a job has been shown to be a “protective factor” against crime and arrests for youth. Jobs help young people gain experience in the work world and effective job assistance programs provide youth with mentoring, life skills training, and a connection to their community.

Conversely, unemployment can have detrimental effects. Youth who are disconnected to institutions of education or employment represent an annual taxpayer cost of $13,900 and a social cost of $37,450. Investments in job assistance programs, however, are a fraction of this expense, and help cut back the taxpayer and social costs while setting a young person up for a lifetime of success. The brief mentions examples from across the country of effective youth workforce development programs that have yielded positive results including public safety benefits, positive life outcomes for youth and cost savings, including programs like YouthBuild, YearUp, Strive and Job Corps being utilized in the District.

Juvenile Mental Health Court in DC Shows Early Success

In Washington D.C., juveniles charged with certain offenses (including some misdemeanors and non-violent, low-level felonies) and diagnosed with a mental illness, can apply to be diverted to a specialized mental health court.
There, under the guidance of Judge Joan Goldfrank, youths are held accountable for their specific problem behavior—such as school attendance, substance abuse, or avoiding mental health treatment.
Early results are encouraging: out of the 56 enrolled in 2011, only eight were subsequently re-arrested. This rate, 14 percent, is far lower than the average re-arrest rates out of D.C.’s general juvenile courts, which hovers around forty percent.

DC Superior Court Helps Teens with Mental Health Problems

A Superior Court in Washington, D.C., is redirecting minors with mental health problems from the juvenile system to treatment and rehabilitation. JM-4, a former juvenile mental health division court, is led by Magistrate Judge Joan Goldfrank, who is known for listening to families and dispensing wisdom and services to kids.
“The message I want to give them is that they are supported,” Goldfrank told the Washington Post. “The whole point of juvenile justice is rehabilitation. How could we not do it on the kids’ side?”
JM-4 is one of a dozen courts in the country that aims to help young people with mental health issues without incarcerating them.
From the Washington Post: