Projects: Developing and Sharing Juvenile Justice Data in New York State

In 2009, Vera’s Center for Youth Justice (CYJ) began to work with the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) in the District of Columbia (DC) to assist DYRS in developing and implementing comprehensive performance measures in the agency’s three areas of supervision and programming for committed youths: secure confinement; reentry and alternatives to secure confinement; and case planning. The performance measures were intended to better equip DYRS to evaluate its efforts, ensuring that its services and programs protect public safety and result in positive outcomes for youth, families, and communities.

 Vera staff interviewed top DYRS administrators and research staff about existing efforts to measure agency performance. Vera also interviewed other professionals within the juvenile justice system, such as members of the Metropolitan Police Department and staffers in the Office of the Attorney General, gathering information about performance measures their agencies were collecting and reporting, as well as about the successes and challenges they have faced in conducting this work. The information gathered was summarized in a data diagnostic report that integrates a literature review of best practices in performance measures and laid the groundwork for DYRS to develop and refine its performance measures. In addition, Vera staffers held three strategic planning meetings with DYRS, juvenile justice agencies, and community-based organizations to collaborate on final performance measures to be used by DYRS.Responding to chronically substandard conditions of confinement for youth held at the now-defunct Oak Hill Youth Center, and the lack of community-based alternatives to secure detention, DC’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) started a comprehensive reform strategy to improve its services and achieve better outcomes for youth, families, and the entire juvenile justice system. In order to know if the agency’s reforms are succeeding, it is essential that DYRS establish sound performance measures across its initiatives. Vera and DYRS are developing them, to permanently enhance the DYRS’s service delivery and data-collection capacity.

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Former Director, Center on Youth Justice