DYRS' Rosy Recidivism Report Overlooks Key Facts

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 9, 2013 | Go to article overview

DYRS' Rosy Recidivism Report Overlooks Key Facts


Byline: Jeffrey Anderson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

On a summer night in August 2011, Osman Al-Akbar was doing what teenagers do - bicycling home after visiting his girlfriend's house. But before the 19-year-old got there, he encountered Rashid Caviness-Bey, also 19, and two other teenagers near Girard Park in Northwest D.C.

Al-Akbar, a youth offender committed to the custody of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, was talking with his girlfriend on his cellphone. He would never see her again. He was shot three times in the back and a fourth time in the face, for reasons that have never been explained.

Caviness-Bey, convicted and sentenced last week to 27 years in prison, and another boy involved, a minor with the initials D.H., also were DYRS wards, according to court documents and interviews with law enforcement officers and family members.

DYRS youth being involved in homicides is not a new phenomenon. Roughly half of the hundreds of DYRS wards are placed in community settings for rehabilitation until they turn 21 or otherwise complete the terms of their commitment. During the five-year period from 2007 through 2011, some 53 such youth offenders determined to pose a high, "high-mediu "or"medium" risk of re-offending were either killed or found guilty of killing someone else, according to agency statistics obtained by The Washington Times.

Now, DYRS Director Neil A. Stanley has reported that the recidivism rate among this population has decreased, a development that drew praise from city leaders.

But Mr. Stanley's Mid-Year Public Safety Update did not disclose that since 2011, partly through court diversion of troubled youths to other city programs, the DYRS population has been cut almost in half. The one-page report makes only scant mention of the decrease in the number of youth under DYRS supervision, saying that the reductions in arrests outpace the population decline.

The report also did not acknowledge that the department does not track recidivism of wards after their commitment ends - which means DYRS' success in rehabilitating youths is difficult if not impossible to assess, said D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat and chairman of the Human Services Committee, which oversees DYRS.

Mr. Graham said the D.C. Superior Court Family Court has dramatically reduced the numbers of youths being committed to DYRS since 2010 and 2011 and that young adults 18 and older are aging out of the DYRS system at twice the rate of youth entering the system. Such trends have reduced DYRS' committed population from 1,100 in January 2011 to fewer than 600 this year, according to city records.

Referring to the 26 percent decrease in the rate of youth recidivism, Mr. Graham said, I think it would have been more accurate for the agency to include its population figures over the last six to eight quarters, and the number of youths actually placed in community settings during the same period so that the larger context would have been understood. …

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DYRS' Rosy Recidivism Report Overlooks Key Facts
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