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D.C. Council Wants To Investigate Oversight Of Young Offenders

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By Patrick Madden

The District's juvenile justice system continues to face scrutiny. The D.C. Council is planning to hold a hearing soon on why the city keeps losing track of the young offenders under its supervision.

Marc Schindler, interim director of the District's Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services says right now there are about 70 young offenders who have absconded or are not accounted for. But he says the city is doing a better job than it used to.

"In 2003, there were about 26 percent of the kids under the agency's supervision who were on absondance status, they didn't know where they were, and now its down to 7 or 8 percent," says Schindler.

Schindler joined 14 other agency heads, judges, and other justice officials at last night's Ward 7 crime summit. Nearly all of them play a role in the city's juvenile justice system, illustrating just how complex it is. Schindler says almost all agree the city's focus on rehabilitation is working.

"You know I think the folks up here and throughout the system we all pretty much know what works," he says.

But problems persist. This year at least seven young offenders under the city's care have been arrested for murder, that's two more than last year's total. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says the challenge of the juvenile justice system is striking the right balance "between community placement and confinement."

"Where is that balance, how do you make you have right people being confined, and the right people being placed in the community?" asks Lanier. "It's a tough issue and one I am glad I do not have to solve."

But it's one the city cannot leave unanswered.

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