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Opening Statement of Councilmember David Grosso

Committee on Recreation & Youth Affairs Budget Oversight Hearing on


Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and Juvenile Abscondence
April 1, 2019

Thank you Chairperson White and thank you to the public witnesses who came out today to
testify, as well as the government witnesses for your work on behalf of the city.

While I am, unfortunately, not a member of this committee, as Chairperson of the Committee
on Education I view the young people who are the responsibility of the Department of Youth
Rehabilitation Services as students and therefore my responsibility, as well.

In fact, the youth that come into contact with DYRS are some of the students I am most
concerned about wanting to support and see thrive. It is my belief, and has been reinforced by
the comments of many young people themselves, that if we can help this specific subset of
youth to succeed, it will benefit all youth and indeed our city.

As a result, through the Education Committee I have sought to bring more attention to
ensuring quality education for young people who are detained, committed, or otherwise in the
care of the government, which is linked to my long interest in disrupting the school to prison
pipeline.

To better understand those issues, I have visited the Youth Services Center, the New
Beginnings Youth Development Center, and DYRS service sites in the community. I also have
been fortunate enough to join youth, families, and staff at DYRS Covenant of Peace events.

Relatedly, I have toured the jail and seen the educational services there, and I have participated
in the Free Minds Book Club with juveniles tried as adults at the jail. During all of these visits,
and in conversations with students, educators, and advocates, I have heard about challenges
and successes in providing education to students during and after their time in these facilities.

That led me to hold a hearing in 2017 on the topic, and in 2018 I convened a working group to
focus our minds on improving the education services provided to youth who are in the care of
the District of Columbia. That effort resulted in a comprehensive report released last year
which contains over 40 policy and legislative recommendations that will help improve
educational outcomes.

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I hope we can hear today about the progress made in those areas.

DYRS has been a great partner in that effort though I know they can do more.

Other highlights of the work happening at DYRs include the impressive Credible Messenger
program, the transition of Title 16 youth to New Beginnings, and continued decreases in the
number of youth committed to the agency.

DYRS has been a great example of how criminal justice reform can work—reducing reliance on
detention while reinvesting dollars into trauma-informed care, social services, and getting
youth and families what they need to thrive.

I wish that all of our criminal justice agencies and political leaders would model their efforts on
what has been happening at DYRS.

Lastly, because I may not be able to stay for the government witnesses, I want to raise one
issue that I would like for DYRS to take on in the coming fiscal year. Back in 2014, I raised the
issue of routine shackling of minors when they appear in D.C. Superior Court, which is partially
a result of our unique court status.

Working with then-Chairperson of the Judiciary Committee Kenyan McDuffie, Attorney


General Karl Racine, and Chief Judge Lee Satterfield, the court implemented a new policy and
approach to end the routine shackling of minors in 2015.

Unfortunately, the policy has not worked as planned, in part because of resource issues with
the U.S. Marshal Service, the federal agency responsible for security at the court, over which
we have no control.

I think it is time for DYRS to take over handling of all minors at the court so that we can better
respect the human rights and dignity of minors in court and ending the indiscriminate
shackling of these children once and for all.

Thank you. I look forward to the conversation.

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