D.C. of­fi­cials find elec­tion lev­er­age with youth re­form

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she wants a re­port on the city’s Youth Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Act within the next few months. Her end game? To have a leg­isla­tive re­form pack­age in front of the D.C. Coun­cil by au­tumn, be­fore she an­nounces her re-elec­tion in­ten­tions.

The mayor and law­mak­ers need to slow their roll.

For starters, nei­ther the YRA nor the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem is bro­ken, and there are far more mov­ing parts than “Law & Or­der” can por­tray in an hour.

Some ba­sics of the D.C. real sit­u­a­tion you may be fa­mil­iar with; oth­ers you may not. For ex­am­ple: The law and the sys­tem grant ju­di­cial dis­cre­tion to judges to or­der war­rants for ju­ve­nile sus­pects and of­fend­ers, to hand down sen­tences on young of­fend­ers and to de­ter­mine how a young crim­i­nal is sen­tenced.

Also em­bed­ded in the D.C. sys­tem is the Court Ser­vices and Of­fender Su­per­vi­sion Agency, which “su­per­vises” D.C. of­fend­ers. The job of CSOSA, which Congress cre­ated in 1997, is to keep track of of­fend­ers by, for ex­am­ple, mon­i­tor­ing whether of­fend­ers are wear­ing “an­kle bracelets,” keep­ing their cur­fews and re­port­ing to their pro­ba­tion of­fi­cers.

In ad­di­tion, pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics has a role, as the ini­tial in­tent of the YRA is to pun­ish youth­ful of­fend­ers, help re­ha­bil­i­tate them and even ex­punge their crim­i­nal records if they stay on the straight and nar­row. And, in case you’re won­der­ing, vi­o­lent of­fend­ers are in­cluded in the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion as­pect of the YRA.

If of­fend­ers don’t stay on the straight and nar­row, you of­ten read about that fact in The Wash­ing­ton Times and other news out­lets when they be­come sus­pects or vic­tims in other crimes. But if CSOSA per­forms its job, not so much.

So there you have it. The courts, the YRA bu­reau­cracy, CSOSA and, of course, the Metropoli­tan Po­lice Depart­ment, all try­ing to keep track of the bad-mother-shut-your-mouth youths on the streets of D.C. But wait, there’s more.

There’s also the D.C. Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Co­or­di­nat­ing Coun­cil, D.C. school sys­tem, D.C. hous­ing au­thor­ity, D.C. hu­man ser­vices and D.C. health depart­ment.

Then there’s the fed­eral government, which con­trols and pays for D.C. courts, pros­e­cutes vi­o­lent youth­ful of­fend­ers and ad­min­is­ters the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice to go af­ter the bad guys (and gals).

No need to won­der why and how quickly ju­ve­nile of­fend­ers be­come re­peat of­fend­ers. In­deed, there are too many mov­ing parts. But that’s also why the mayor and the coun­cil need to stay in their lane.

See, the mayor mouthed off and blamed the courts and the jus­tice sys­tem for the vi­o­lence, blood­shed and young re­peat of­fend­ers on D.C. streets. The judges are ful­fill­ing their law­ful re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. How­ever, the Dis­trict’s lawand-or­der stance is weak­ened by the in­ef­fec­tive­ness among the YRA, CSOSA and CJCC. Too many hands spoil the pot, which the writ­ers of the highly suc­cess­ful “Law & Or­der” brand fully un­der­stood.

Fur­ther­more, the coun­cil is hardly pre­pared to be­gin to digest what works, what does not work and how the re­la­tion­ship between the law (YRS), CSOSA and CJCC should con­tinue. Af­ter all, Charles Allen doesn’t as­sume the chair­man­ship of the Pub­lic Safety and Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee un­til Jan­uary, he has not been a mem­ber of the panel’s cur­rent makeup, and the new chairs of other com­mit­tees won’t be seated un­til Jan­uary. Those new chairs will be play­ing catch-up, too. Mr. Allen has said hear­ings on the YRA is a top pri­or­ity of his.

Hon­estly, he and other com­mit­tee heads are al­ready be­hind the eight ball, since their in­ter­est is a re­ac­tion to a se­ries of ar­ti­cles in The Wash­ing­ton Post. The is­sue of youths in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem is cer­tainly one wor­thy of pub­lic dis­cus­sion.

Too many young peo­ple and adults are both the vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors of ju­ve­nile crime.

But the po­lit­i­cal cal­en­dar dic­tates crim­i­nal in­tent if the coun­cil moves un­pre­pared. By this time next year, af­ter the coun­cil has “passed” YRA re­forms, the mayor and coun­cil mem­bers (in­clud­ing Chair­man Phil Men­del­son) will have de­cided whether they will seek re-elec­tion. Bad tim­ing, for sure.

YRA en­force­ment, and CSOSA and CJCC ef­fec­tive­ness and ac­count­abil­ity need vig­or­ous over­sight. Law­mak­ers and the Bowser ad­min­is­tra­tion are sim­ply ill-pre­pared for a tough grilling.

Their fast track is crim­i­nally neg­li­gent. Haste makes waste.

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