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Following Shooting, D.C.'s Rehabilitative Approach Under Scrutiny

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D.C. Council Member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) holda an overview hearing on the District's Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services.
Patrick Madden
D.C. Council Member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) holda an overview hearing on the District's Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services.

By Patrick Madden

Five years ago, Washington D.C. became a national model for juvenile justice reform. It moved away from locking up youths and placed more emphasis on rehabilitation. But after a mass shooting in Southeast D.C., some city lawmakers are now questioning the reform effort.

Three of the suspects in the March 30th shooting that left 4 young people dead were well known to the police and juvenile justice agencies. One suspect, A 14-year-old, had been under supervision six times, and escaped twice.

D.C. Council Member Jim Graham says the city's rehabilitative approach is not working.

"What we are doing is well intentioned, what we are doing is meant to make a difference. But the fact of the matter is, we have a revolving door of youthful offenders who know they have nothing to feel," says Graham.

Graham says he wants to give judges more authority to monitor juvenile cases and be able to recommend secure detention in some instances. Council Member Tommy Wells says he is commissioning a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the reforms in the juvenile justice system.

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