Councilmember McDuffie Introduces Sweeping Juvenile Justice Reform Bill

Today, Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary, along with Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers Bonds, Grosso, May, Nadeau, and Silverman introduced the “Comprehensive Youth Justice Amendment Act of 2016,”a bill that makes sweeping reforms to the District of Columbia’s juvenile justice system.

After months of collaboration with numerous experts and advocates in the field, McDuffie’s omnibus bill identifies reforms that prioritize rehabilitation, improve the conditions of confinement, strengthen government accountability, restore judicial discretion in juvenile sentencing, and open a pathway to permanent residency for young immigrants who are victims of abuse or neglect. Taken together, these evidence-based practices will establish the District as a national leader in youth justice.”

“We know that, when a young man or woman comes into contact with the justice system, it is often a pivotal moment in their lives. Whether our young people arrive at the courthouse door because they ran away from home, they are facing potential deportation, they were arrested for a poor decision, or because they face adult charges – they stand at a precipice. What happens next often sets the trajectory for the rest of their lives – and ultimately determines whether they will eventually be contributing members of our community. “Our efforts with this legislation are to study the underlying causes of juvenile delinquency, so that we can target our efforts before young people make bad choices. We want to put them on a pathway to success,” said McDuffie.

The key provisions in the bill include the following:

Prioritizes Rehabilitation

  • Transfers all detained youth under the age of 18 from adult to juvenile facilities by 2018
  • Ensures that juveniles are not unnecessarily detained before a court hearing
  • Protects children under the age of 10 from being committed with older juveniles and entering the criminal justice system
  • Enhances information sharing between government agencies that serve juveniles

Improves the Conditions of Confinement

  • Limits the use of solitary confinement for juveniles and requires stringent reporting when it is applied
  • Better engages families of committed youth by informing them of available resources through the development and distribution of a parent manual
  • Limits the use of restraints on confined juveniles
  • Bans the use of disciplinary segregation for juveniles

Reduces Overincarceration through Intervention and Age-Appropriate Sentencing

  • Establishes victim-offender mediation as an alternative option for victims of crime
  • Ends the use of mandatory minimum sentences for juveniles and restores judicial discretion
  • Bans the use of life without parole sentences for juveniles

 Improves Data Collection and Analysis

  • Requires the District’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services to analyze the underlying causes of crime for its committed population
  • Tracks the success of youth previously committed to the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services until the age of 24

Protects Abused and Neglected Immigrant Children

  • Provides extra time for young immigrants who were abused or neglected to apply for residency

The Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing on the bill June 1, 2016.

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