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Reforms Needed to Improve Youth Outcomes in DC

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SOURCE Campaign for Youth Justice

New report examines impact of "direct file" statute on youth, public safety

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In 2012, youth in the District of Columbia spent more than 10,000 days - the equivalent of 27 years - in adult jail under a statute that enables federal prosecutors to send DC youth accused of certain crimes to adult court without judicial review, according to a new report released today by DC Lawyers for Youth (DCLY) and the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ). The report cites the inadequate facilities, high risk of victimization, use of solitary confinement, long-term consequences of adult felony convictions, and failure to deter future crime as reasons to reform DC's approach to the prosecution of youth as adults by promoting the rehabilitation of young offenders and improving public safety.

According to the report, Capital City Correction: Reforming DC's Use of Adult Incarceration Against Youth, 541 youth under the age of 18 were detained or incarcerated in adult facilities in DC between 2007 and 2012. The report shows that the youth who were incarcerated in adult facilities in DC were disproportionately young men of color from low-income communities. While incarcerated in the adult jail, DC youth are housed in a developmentally inappropriate and inadequate facility where they receive limited educational, behavioral health, and vocational services and limited time with their families. According to the report, most of the time that youth spend at the adult jail is prior to trial, when youth are presumed innocent of the offense. 

"The adult system is no place for kids," said Carmen Daugherty, CFYJ Policy Director. "Trying youth as adults also jeopardizes public safety as there is no evidence that adult court deters youth crime in general and compelling evidence that it actually increases recidivism among those who are processed through it."

The report notes that 23 states, including Virginia and Maryland, have recently taken steps to reduce youth contact with the adult justice system and recommends policy reforms for DC to promote youth accountability and rehabilitation.

"Federal prosecutors should not have unfettered discretion to send our DC kids to adult jail," said R. Daniel Okonkwo, DCLY Executive Director. "Judges should play a role in reviewing both the alleged facts of the case and the facts of the child to determine whether the youth and public safety would be better served by the rehabilitative goals and services of the juvenile justice system."

DC Lawyers for Youth:
DCLY seeks to improve the DC juvenile justice system by advocating for reforms that promote positive youth development, effective legal representation, and supportive relationships between the community and DC's youth. For additional information, visit here.  

Campaign for Youth Justice:
CFYJ is a national organization dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system. For additional information, visit here.

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