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D.C. Juvenile Justice System Under Fire For Failing To Monitor Minors

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An inspector general report on D.C.'s juvenile justice system says the city needs to do a better job of monitoring the young people under its care, who are often sent to facilities hundreds of miles away.

More than a third of the minors committed to D.C.'s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) are placed in facilities outside D.C.

The watchdog agency found case managers did not monitor and meet face-to-face with these young people enough, especially those located more than 50 miles away.

In the worst example, the watchdog report notes a case manager with the city never visited a youth who had been placed in a facility several states away.

One DYRS official told IG investigators that a big problem is funding. Several years back, the Gray administration put a freeze on agency travel spending.

Another major problem cited in the report is the lack of a defined, clear relationship with the federal courts, which are in charge of minors after they have been arrested and are awaiting a court appearance or sentenced to probation, and DYRS, which usually assumes custody when the juvenile has been found guilty of a serious crime.

As the IG report notes, the federal courts agency known as court social services doesn't report to the D.C. government and, in fact, refused to be interviewed by IG investigators.

These unclear lines of responsibility, the report states, hamper D.C.'s ability to make sure young people are receiving proper care.

Update: DYRS disputes the IG’s finding that case managers have been "negligent" at visiting youth in out-of-state facilities and says "while budget constraints last year did not allow for frequent visitation to facilities more than 50 miles away, in person visits did occur." 

DYRS also disagrees with the IG finding about the lack of funding for out-of-state visits: "DYRS budgets for case managers to travel outside of the District to visit youth in out-of-state placement."

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