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D.C.'s Juvenile Justice System Could Be Restructured

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The D.C. Council member charged with overseeing the city's Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services is considering a radical change to the agency.

The problems surrounding the DYRS agency have been well-documented. Just last month, the family of a murder victim filed a $20 million dollar lawsuit against the city for failing to supervise its committed youth.

Now, Council member Jim Graham says D.C. has one of the few juvenile justice systems in the country that oversee young people until they turn 21-years-old. Most jurisdictions are in charge of young offenders until they turn 18, when they are treated as adults. Graham it may be time for D.C. to follow suit.

"Nearly 50 percent of the DYRS wards are 18 to 21, even though the programs are set up for children," Graham says. "When you are 18 you are not a child, you are an adult." Graham says the move would free up resources and allow D.C.toconcentrate on younger children.

"You would see a lot more results because we would have job development programs, we would have literacy, we would be dealing with this marijuana addiction, having mental health because a lot of these kids are abused," Graham says. "It would be different."

The council member hasn't yet made any formal proposal for restructuring DYRS.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the age at which youths age out of the juvenile justice system. DYRS serves youths until they turn 21.

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