D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced earlier this week an agreement in a class action lawsuit that is likely to end court oversight and monitoring of the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, if approved.
The court control over the department has been in place for 35 years as a result of a court ruling. Now the District and Plaintiffs’ counsel have reached a settlement to put an end to the practice.
The class action lawsuit was originally filed in 1985 on behalf of youth in the District’s secure juvenile detention facilities, which rehabilitates minors who commit crimes.
However the D.C. Superior Court has to approve the settlement in order for it to go into effect.
“The settlement agreement is a tremendous victory for our local autonomy and demonstrates the progress we have made to improve and strengthen the District’s juvenile justice system,” Bowser was quoted as saying in a statement from the Office of the Mayor. “I am confident that DYRS, under the leadership of Director Lacey, will continue to lead the way in engaging vulnerable District youth with evidence-based practices.”
The District has put so much effort to strengthen its juvenile justice system since the lawsuit was filed, according to the statement. As part those efforts, it founded the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) as a Cabinet-level agency, closed Oak Hill and opened modern facilities, improved the provision of a wide range of rehabilitative services in its secure facilities and increased the safety of the facilities through evidence-based behavioral management practices.
In 2015, the D.C. Superior Court approved a partial class action settlement in the lawsuit, limiting court oversight of the city’s youth rehabilitation services. Bowser’s office attributes the development to the progress made by the District.
The new agreement will finish the oversight and allow the agency to operate independently.
“This settlement is possible because DYRS worked hard to transform the way it supervises and provides services to court-involved youth,” said Attorney General Karl Racine.
“Once finalized, this agreement will ensure that we enhance public safety by meeting the rehabilitative needs of our young people. We are thankful to DYRS Director Lacey’s strong leadership in service to the District of Columbia, and for the significant contributions of our community partners, Special Arbiter Grace Lopes, the Plaintiffs’ counsel, and OAG attorneys who helped resolve this case,” Racine continued.
DYRS Director Clinton Lacey also celebrated the decision, saying “This settlement demonstrates how far the District has come in serving court-involved youth. Led by our vision, hope, resiliency and empowerment of youth and families, and grounded in the core principles of restorative justice, DYRS will continue provide the highest quality of services to the youth in our care.”