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Youth Justice

Committee Chairs: Paul Lee, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, and Victor Long, Regan Zambri Long

Since 1982, the Council for Court Excellence’s (CCE) Youth Justice Committee has worked to improve outcomes for DC youth involved in the juvenile justice, criminal, and child welfare systems. To this end, the committee researches and analyzes local youth justice issues, publishes reports documenting its findings, and advocates for changes to local juvenile justice laws, systems, and policies.

The Youth Justice Committee has achieved significant success over the past 37 years. In 1988, the committee developed the Practice Manual for Child Abuse and Neglect Cases in DC. This project led the committee to focus its efforts on improving the child welfare system. From 1992 to 2012, the committee facilitated collaboration among DC child welfare leaders, monitored District compliance with the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act, and published biannual progress reports tracking systemic improvements. Another accomplishment of the committee is its 2009 Guide to the DC Juvenile Justice System, a plain English overview of how the DC juvenile justice system functions. CCE has distributed thousands of copies of this guide throughout the DC community and also has conducted community training sessions based on its content. The committee’s most recent major project was its 2015 report Equity in School Discipline, an overview of DC school discipline procedures and policies.

Some of the projects include:

Mental health treatment for DC’s youth - The services available to youth diagnosed with mental health issues in DC are insufficient. CCE seeks to accelerate these efforts by executing a multi-year campaign to increase and improve the behavioral health services available to DC’s children. CCE’s Youth Justice Committee will analyze the availability and effectiveness of mental health treatment for DC youth, and advocate for an increase in the availability and quality of such services.

Amending DC’s Youth Rehabilitation Act (YRA) - The YRA was enacted in 1985 to render DC youth ages 15-22 eligible for shorter sentences, enhanced support while incarcerated, and increased confidentiality about their conviction. In December 2016, the Washington Post published a series of articles alleging that a high rate of DC youth convicted under the YRA go on to commit violent crimes in the District. Subsequent to this series, the DC Council indicated its intent to review and possibly amend the YRA in 2017. CCE’s Youth Justice Committee will testify before the DC Council to inform its deliberations on whether and how the YRA could be amended, and will advocate for improved data collection and reporting, and increased services for youth convicted under the YRA.

Removing juveniles from DC’s adult jail - The Comprehensive Youth Justice Amendment Act of 2016 includes a provision that will allow juveniles being tried or convicted in the adult criminal system to be incarcerated at a juvenile facility, if these juvenile facilities demonstrate adequate capacity over a period of time. Currently, DC’s juvenile facilities do not have sufficient capacity to accommodate these youths. CCE’s Youth Justice Committee will examine where youth are incarcerated in the District of Columbia and advocate for juvenile offenders to be removed from DC’s adult jail.

Police at DC schools - No clear guidance exists for school leaders regarding the laws and policies regulating how MPD officers assigned to DC school campuses should interact with school staff and students. CCE’s Youth Justice Committee will study these issues and develop guidance for school leaders for interacting with police on DC school campuses.

Recent publications: 

Equity in School Discipline (2015, rev. 2017)


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