Projects: Washington, D.C. juvenile justice placement reform process evaluation

In April 2009, Vera's Center on Youth Justice (CYJ) began a year-long process evaluation of Washington, DC's four-and-a-half-year (2005 through mid-2010) effort to reform its juvenile institutional placement system. This process evaluation, funded by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, sought to document Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services’ (DYRS) strategy for the reforms, as well as to assess the implementation of the changes, which drew inspiration from the highly regarded Missouri Model of juvenile justice practice.

A growing number of states and localities are recognizing that the punitive model of juvenile justice—long popular across the nation—has failed to improve public safety or to enhance outcomes for young people who spend time in these systems. Although many policymakers and practitioners have taken note of reforms in the state of Missouri, which trail-blazed a strengths-based, therapeutically oriented alternative model, few jurisdictions have taken the next step and applied Missouri’s approach to their own philosophy, facilities, and practices.

Washington, DC is a notable exception. Capital Change, CYJ's process evaluation designed to document how the District planned, designed, and implemented its reforms, should enhance that jurisdiction’s ability to carry the reforms forward and enlighten others about how they could seek to improve their juvenile justice systems.

Capital change: a process evaluation of Washington, DC's secure juvenile placement reform
A growing body of research has persuaded most experts and many practitioners that punitive responses to juvenile offenders—particularly those placed in secure facilities—yield poor results for the youth involved and for public safety. Informed by this consensus, in 2005 officials in Washington, DC’...
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The Urban Institute’s District of Columbia Crime Policy Institute recently released a report highlighting trends in youth placed in the custody of the DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), the District’s cabinet-level juvenile...