Mark David Richards
Council Period 12
Council Period 13
Council Period 14
Government and People
Anacostia Waterfront Corporation
Boards and Com
Chief Financial Officer
Chief Management Officer
Elections and Ethics
Housing and Community Dev.
Capital Revitalization Corp.
Planning and Econ. Dev.
Planning, Office of
Public Service Commission
Regional Mobility Panel
Sports and Entertainment Com.
University of DC
Water and Sewer Administration
Youth Rehabilitation Services
Issues in DC Politics
DC General, PBC
Public Benefit Corporation
Tax Rev Comm
Term limits repeal
Voting rights, statehood
Williams’s Fundraising Scandals
Cardozo Shaw Neigh.Assoc.
Committee of 100
Fed of Citizens Assocs
League of Women Voters
What Is DCWatch?
March 30, 2004
District of Columbia Subcommittee Hearing on Review of Deficiencies at the District of Columbia's Youth Services Administration:
Opening Statement of Subcommittee Chairman Mike DeWine
HEARING STATEMENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA APPROPRIATIONS DEFICIENCIES IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA’S YOUTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION CHAIRMAN MIKE DEWINE MARCH 30, 2004
Good morning. This hearing will come to order. Today, we will review the District of Columbia’s Youth Services Administration -- the agency charged with overseeing committed juvenile offenders, as well as detained juveniles at its Oak Hill juvenile detention facility in Laurel, Maryland.
This morning, the Interim Inspector General for the District will release his comprehensive report on the Youth Services Administration's Oak Hill facility. After reviewing an embargoed version of this report, I am shocked and outraged at the conditions at this facility. In a moment, we will hear details from our witnesses, but I would like to mention some of the more egregious deficiencies:
- Illegal drugs, such as marijuana and PCP, are regularly smuggled into the Oak Hill Youth Detention Center. In some cases, Youth Correctional Officers are the source of some of the illegal substances;
- Substance abuse treatment contractors have refused to renew contracts because Oak Hill is unable to stop the influx of drugs. That means there are no drug treatment services at Oak Hill;
- Youths entering Oak Hill drug-free start taking drugs inside the facility because they have access to drugs; and
- The Youth Services Administration has wasted millions of dollars on contractors who have not provided any meaningful deliverables.
Later, the Director of the Public Defender Service in the District will testify that the Youth Services Administration has failed to protect youths from harm. For example, last year a 12 year-old -- held at Oak Hill as an overnighter and not accused of any crime -- was placed in a room with two other children. The 12 year-old was sexually assaulted by one of the other youths. Several months later, a 13 year-old was arrested and held at Oak Hill waiting for a shelter house space. The 13 year-old was placed in a room with the same child who committed the prior sexual assault. Not surprising, yet another sexual incident occurred.
I understand that this practice of assigning more than one child to a room has led to the commingling of status offenders -- kids who are runaways or truants -- and delinquent youth, as well as detained and committed youths.
For example, these practices led to a child detained as a truant and a runaway being housed in the same room as a youth detained on charges of negligent homicide! Now that just isn't right, and it just isn't good for these children.
Amazingly, these are only the latest in a long list of deficiencies with the Youth Services Administration that stretch back at least 19 years! Indeed, it was 19 years ago this month that the Public Defender Service filed a complaint against the District for failure to protect youth under its custody. Year after year, the City has fallen short of the Court’s “Jerry M. Decree,” and is now facing the prospect of being taken over by a Court receiver.
Equally amazing is that it costs $245 per day to house a youth at Oak Hill -- that amounts to a staggering $89,425 per year! $89,425 to place a child in a dangerous setting with 177 other juvenile offenders who all have access to illicit drugs and no drug treatment programs. There's something terribly wrong with that picture.
I have worked to enact and fund the District of Columbia Family Court Reform Act, and I have worked to develop and fund a Foster Care Initiative in the District, because I believe it is our moral duty to protect and care for children who have been abused and neglected. I understand that many children who are in foster care group homes run away because they are being victimized by other youths in the same home. Once these children run away or are truant from school, they become delinquents and are often sent to Oak Hill. So, neglected youths who are failed by a broken foster care system, now find themselves locked up and labeled juvenile delinquents. The societal sympathy for these youths immediately plummets because now they are perpetrators, rather than victims.
This hearing should shed a disinfecting light on the problems with the City’s Youth Services Administration. I expect to see an urgent and comprehensive plan to correct these many deficiencies. We have waited 19 years for improvements -- and we must not wait another year and wait for more kids to be victimized before something changes.
Because of the many findings in the Inspector General’s Report, I will allow Mr. Andersen 8 minutes to present his testimony. As usual, the remaining witnesses will be limited to 5 minutes for their oral remarks, in order to leave time for questions and answers. Copies of all written statements will be placed in the Record in their entirety.
Back to top of page
Statement of Robert C. Bobb
City Administrator and Deputy Mayor District of Columbia Government
On Behalf of Mayor Anthony A. Williams
Before the Subcommittee on the District of Columbia Committee on Appropriations United States Senate
Open Session to Review Deficiencies at the District of Columbia’s Youth Services Administration
March 30, 2004
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the U.S. Senate, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on the District of Columbia. My name is Robert C. Bobb and I serve as the City Administrator and Deputy Mayor for the District of Columbia Government. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this morning to testify on behalf of Mayor Anthony A. Williams and to share with this Subcommittee the substantial progress that we are making in addressing a number of deficiencies at the Youth Services Administration as identified by the Inspector General and the Court Monitor in the Jerry M. litigation.
Joining me this morning at the witness table are two members of my management team: Marceline D. Alexander, Interim Administrator of the Youth Services Administration, and Mark D. Back, Interim Special Counsel for the Youth Services Administration. Based on my recommendation, Mayor Williams appointed these capable managers on December 3, 2003, to help my office conduct a top-to-bottom review of the Youth Services Administration and to stabilize the agency until we can put a permanent, juvenile justice professional in place.
A short autobiographical history is appropriate before I address the deficiencies at the Youth Services Administration and the pending issue of receivership. Before assuming my duties as the District of Columbia’s City Administrator and Deputy Mayor on October 6, 2003, I already had served in a similar capacity in four other cities spanning nearly 30 years. Beginning in 1974, I was appointed to serve in Kalamazoo, Michigan as Assistant City Manager. I served as Assistant City Manger in Kalamazoo for two years before becoming Acting City Manager and then City Manager and serving an additional eight years. After Kalamazoo, I served as City Manager in Santa Ana, California for two and ½ years; in Richmond, Virginia for eleven and ½ years, and in Oakland, California for five and ½ years. In Oakland, I also served as the Executive Director of the City of Oakland Redevelopment Agency. Prior to agreeing to my current position, I reviewed a series of newspaper articles on the issues facing the District of Columbia and the Williams Administration, one of which was the Youth Services Administration. I had prior experience with juvenile justice issues in Richmond, Virginia where I was responsible for both city and county functions. One of those functions included responsibility for the juvenile courts as well as the juvenile detention facilities. In Richmond, I appointed a juvenile justice expert to put in place a continuum of care services where the courts could decide, based on the severity of the youth’s offenses and other issues, whether to place the youth in a community-based program, in the city’s detention facility, or in Hanover County’s more stringent juvenile facility. In the District of Columbia, the decision of where to place a detained youth, a youth who is awaiting court disposition of charges, rests with the court. For committed youth, a youth who has been adjudicated by the Court as involved in criminal activity, placement decisions reside in the Youth Services Administration. The point is that I am familiar with juvenile justice issues and I was aware of many of the issues concerning the Youth Services Administration prior to my arrival.
On October 15, 2003, nine days after my first day on the job, I attended a meeting with the then Deputy Mayor for Children, Youth, Family, and Elders and attorneys from the Office of the Corporation Counsel to discuss the status of the Jerry M. litigation involving the Youth Services Administration and coordination issues between various District departments providing services to our youth. For those of you who may not know, the Jerry M. litigation is a class action filed in 1985 by the D.C. Public Defender Service and the ACLU National Prison Project against the District to address certain issues involving the care and custody of detained and committed youth in the District’s juvenile justice system. Following that first meeting, I convened a number of subsequent meetings in October and November 2003 to confront the issues facing the Youth Services Administration. As is my management style, I assembled a team of in-house government experts to sit around the table together in order to drive resolution of the issues so that I could take action to stabilize that agency. That team included my Chief of Staff, the Deputy Mayor’s for Public Safety & Justice and Operations, and the Directors of the Departments of Human Services, Mental Health, and Corrections. It is important to recognize that the Youth Services Administration is one of five administrations within the Department of Human Services. The first order of business was to professionalize the perimeter and entrance security for the Oak Hill Youth Center because there were concerns of whether security was tight enough for persons entering that secure facility. Working with the Deputy Mayors for Public Safety & Justice and Operations, the Chief Procurement Officer and the Director of the Department of Corrections, I issued orders to terminate for convenience the contractor who had been providing those services and to put the Department of Corrections in charge of external security. I wanted to have the Director of our Department of Corrections, as the District’s security expert, accountable and responsible to me for providing an increased level of security for our employees and visitors. The Department of Corrections began providing security at the main entrance to the grounds and at the sally port entrances to the facilities at the Oak Hill Youth Center beginning November 16, 2003, and the Memorandum of Understanding between the Departments of Human Services and Corrections provides for continued security services by Corrections through the end of the fiscal year.
I have been quoted as calling “the entire system just broken” shortly after my visit to the Oak Hill in November 2003. This quote is accurate but is best understood in context. The Administrator who had run the Youth Services Administration for five years had resigned in July 2003, and there were a series of Acting Administrators; the Deputy Administrator for Secure Programs (which includes the Oak Hill Youth Center) resigned in October 2003; and the Oak Hill Youth Center Superintendent, the Deputy Administrator for Court and Community Programs (which includes oversight of aftercare services and court liaison activities), and the Chief Administrative Officer were each terminated on the day of my visit. On November 21, 2003, I spent a little over an hour touring the facility and talking with senior level staff. I also visited a number of group homes to get a better picture of how those homes were operating. Following these unannounced visits to Oak Hill and the group homes, I reconvened the team I had assembled in October and shared my views and thoughts that we immediately needed to stabilize the Youth Services Administration by putting a management team in place to stabilize the infrastructure and to address all of the issues surrounding the agency. I candidly admitted in my testimony to the court that “there was no management to any large degree in place.”
I have already testified that while I was City Manager in Richmond, Virginia, I hired an expert in juvenile justice to design a continuum of care program. That was the right approach for what was needed in those circumstances where we were developing an entirely new continuum of care program.
Based on my 30 years of city management experience, I concluded that a different approach was needed for the Youth Services Administration because of the instability caused by the departure of the Administrator, her two Deputy Administrators, the Chief Administrative Officer, and the Oak Hill Youth Center Superintendent. I personally selected and recommended to the Mayor new leadership for the Youth Services Administration. I chose Ms. Alexander as Interim Administrator because she is someone who knows the District of Columbia and who knows how to get things done in this city. Beginning in early 2003, Ms. Alexander had been assigned by the Deputy Mayor for Operations to the then troubled Office of Property Management as Chief of Staff, Deputy Director and then Interim Director. She stabilized that agency and began the process of turning it around until we could put a more permanent professional in place. While Ms. Alexander has some juvenile justice experience from her time in the Abuse and Neglect Section in the Office of the Corporation Counsel, her selection as Interim Administrator of the Youth Services Administration was premised on her ability to stabilize the agency and to reform its management infrastructure while we conduct a nationwide search for a permanent, juvenile justice expert to lead the agency. As an 18-year employee of the District of Columbia, a fine lawyer, and a certified public manager, Ms. Alexander is the right person for the job and I am fortunate to have found her. Since her arrival on December 3, 2003, Ms. Alexander has moved to fill critical vacancies in the Youth Services Administration, hiring 33 new employees, including the Assistant Superintendents for Treatment for both the Oak Hill Youth Center and the new Youth Services Center (which is set for beneficial occupancy in late August 2004), 18 Youth Correctional Officers, and five Juvenile Justice Institutional Counselors (otherwise known as Treatment Team Leaders). These are critical hires for the agency because these are the employees who provide direct services to our youth. Dr. Sybil Smith-Gray, the newly-hired Assistant Superintendent for Treatment, is a licensed clinical psychologist and has worked collaboratively with the Department of Mental Health (which previously retained her as a contractor) to reform our diagnostic and assessment unit. With Dr. Gray’s leadership, and in concert with the Department of Mental Health, the Youth Services Administration has developed a therapeutic atmosphere for securing detained and committed youth. The Youth Services Administration is a human services organization and its service delivery is predicated upon the concepts of Corrective Treatment and Balanced and Restorative Justice or BARJ. The fundamental goal of corrective treatment for the juvenile offender is the development of a healthy and adaptive respect/obedience for authority as evidenced by discipline, order, respect and compliance. As clinicians in social services, our aim is to accomplish this goal through repeated clinical interactions that replicate the phases that characterize the healthy caregiver-child relationship: positive engagement, interpersonal stress, reparation of the damaged interaction. Ultimately, this effort will support the juvenile offender’s ability to develop healthy interpersonal relationships and that are characterized by mutual trust, empathy for others, and the ability to exchange ideas and share feelings effectively. With regard to BARJ principles, victims/survivors of crime, offenders, and the community are viewed as equal consumers of the juvenile justice system. Therefore, each of these entities is given equal consideration when developing and implementing programmatic responses. The three over-arching goals of BARJ for juveniles are: accountability, competency, development and community protection. As of this writing, 392 of the Youth Services Administration’s 480 authorized FTEs are filled. Of these remaining positions, 65 are in recruit status and 23 are vacant. The Mayor has proposed in his Fiscal Year 2005 budget, a significant increase in funding, in order to hire an additional 71 FTEs in the Youth Services Administration to staff the new Youth Services Center and to implement Jerry M. compliance and organizational improvements. The new Youth Services Center is an 80-bed diagnostic facility located on Mt. Olivet Road that will serve our detained youth prior to adjudication. Understandably, the ongoing nationwide recruitment effort by the D.C. Office of Personnel for a permanent Administrator is made especially difficult while plaintiffs’ motion for appointment of a transitional receiver is pending before the Superior Court in the Jerry M. litigation. Nevertheless, we are actively moving forward to recruit a top juvenile justice professional to lead the organization as we work diligently to stabilize it.
As part of her management reform initiative, Ms. Alexander is reorganizing the agency under four Deputy Administrators as follows: (1) Deputy Administrator for Secure Programs (responsible for operations at both Oak Hill Youth Center and the new Youth Services Center); (2) Deputy Administrator for Court and Community Programs (responsible for aftercare services for committed youth and for court activities); (3) Deputy Administrator for Support Services (functionally, the Chief Administrative Officer responsible for all administrative activities); and (4) Deputy Administrator for Performance Management (responsible for risk management, program evaluation, data collection, contract monitoring, policy and accreditation). The Deputy Administrator for Court and Community Programs has already been hired and the other three deputies have been recruited and are awaiting selection. The incumbents for these management positions will be involved in hiring direct report managers within their respective operational responsibilities. This new structure will rationalize the organization and provide for enhanced management and accountability to ensure that the youth are being comprehensively and efficiently served.
INVESTIGATIONS BY THE OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL
The Office of the Inspector General’s Inspections and Evaluations Division began an inspection of the Youth Services Administration in April 2003. The inspection is being conducted in two parts. Part One, which is covered in a draft report submitted to the Department of Human Services for comments on March 4, 2004, includes management, administrative services, and all operations at the Oak Hill Youth Center. On March 22, 2004, in accordance with the Office of Inspector General’s standard auditing procedures, the Department of Human Services provided its comments to the 45 findings and 96 recommendations contained in Part One’s draft report of investigation. We await the Office of the Inspector General’s final report. Part Two, which was commenced in February 2004, includes the remaining operations of the Youth Services Administration. During the course of the Part One inspection, the Inspector General also issued seven Management Alert Reports on matters that the inspection team found required the immediate attention of District of Columbia government officials. The Youth Services Administration responded to each of these Management Alert Reports and is taking specific action to address each of the deficiencies identified in the reports.
The Inspector General alerted the Youth Services Administration to a number of fire safety deficiencies, including inaccessible fire extinguishers, a lack of fire drills, and a lack of posted evacuation plans. In responding to the report, the Youth Services Administration abated each and every fire safety deficiency. However, the Youth Services Administration disagrees with the Inspector General on the issue of accessibility of fire extinguishers. The Youth Services Administration follows American Correctional Association (ACA) standards pertaining to ensuring the safety and well being of its residents and staff at the Oak Hill Youth Center. To that end, all fire extinguishers are concealed in locked wall areas on each unit. The unit manager and supervisory Youth Correctional Officer or YCO on each unit have keys to open the locked wall boxes. In order to provide additional safety measures to each housing unit, the Youth Services Administration is installing a lock box in each of the security office’s to ensure that the keys are available on the unit should a fire emergency occur. The Youth Services Administration has mounted its fire evacuation plans, is recruiting to fill the position of Health and Safety Officer, and is documenting its ongoing fire drills in weekly fire inspection reports.
The Inspector General alerted the Youth Services Administration to breaches of security at entrances at the Oak Hill Youth Center due to a lack of adequate search procedures, and the employment of security guards without completed criminal background checks. These findings and recommendations were made during the time prior to November 2003 when a contractor was providing these security services. That contractor was terminated for convenience and, effective November 16, 2003, the Department of Corrections began providing these security services with an approximately 23-member squad and each of its correctional officers have undergone criminal background checks.
The Inspector General alerted the Youth Services Administration to certain deficiencies in the female housing unit that impair the ability of YCOs to effectively maintain the safety and security of residents and to ensure their own safety as well. These deficiencies included a lack of proper security monitoring equipment, insufficient perimeter lighting, a lack of proper communication equipment, and failure to provide all YCOs with keys to resident rooms in the event of an emergency. In the responding to the reported deficiencies, the Youth Services Administration issued four additional two-way radios to the unit supervisor in Unit 6 for female youth. In the event additional radios are necessary, instructions have been given to the Officer of Day to ensure that any staff member who needs access to a two-way radio receives this equipment immediately. In order to provide additional security measures that will allow faster evacuation of the housing units, including Unit 6, the Youth Services Administration is installing a lock box in the security office, and the unit manager, supervisory correctional officer and the officer of the day will have access in the event of a fire or other emergency. The Youth Services Administration has repaired the electronic security monitoring system in Unit 6 and the metal detector and hand wand equipment at Unit 6 have been replaced. The equipment is operational and the staff has been instructed to have this security equipment operational at all times. Finally, the Youth Services Administration is aware of the need to upgrade the facility’s exterior lighting, and arrangements are under way to upgrade the electrical power so that institutional lighting can be enhanced for Unit 6.
The Inspector General alerted the Youth Services Administration to a lack of sufficient and reliable communication equipment that threatens overall safety and security and impairs the ability of YCOs, transportation officers, treatment team leaders, and social services representatives to perform their jobs effectively. The Youth Services Administration, in conjunction with the Department of Human Services, the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, and Verizon Communications, completed a thorough assessment regarding the telecommunications needs of the agency are in the process of establishing a corrective action plan. In the interim, while the longer term solution is planned and implemented, the Youth Services Administration has repaired the broken equipment, issued additional two-way radios and cell phones, and repaired broken electronic monitoring systems.
The Inspector General alerted the Youth Services Administration to illegal substances, such as marijuana and phencyclidine (PCP), smuggled into the Oak Hill Youth Center. These allegations arise at a time when a contractor was providing security but, candidly, the presence of illegal substances persists. In a recent testing, 14 of 159 youth or 8.8 percent testified positive for the presence of marijuana. The Youth Services Administration already is investigating the report’s allegation that YCOs are engaged in illegal conduct (i.e. providing illegal substances to youth), in addition to the investigation being conducted by the Department of Human Services Office of Investigations and Compliance. We agree with the Inspector General that the use of Department of Corrections officers to provide perimeter and sally port security at the Oak Hill Youth Center will assist in the interdiction of contraband entering the facility. The agency is utilizing shakedowns and other measures within the facility to detect such contraband in the housing units. The Youth Services Administration also is working with the Metropolitan Police Department’s canine unit to buttress its drug interdiction measures inside of the facility. The canine unit already has visited the Oak Hill facility on four unannounced visits, and the longer range objective is to enter into a memorandum of understanding to provide the Oak Hill Youth Center and subsequently, the new Youth Services Center, with a permanent canine detection program.
The Inspector General alerted the Youth Services Administration to documentation of 28 vacant and abandoned buildings on the same grounds as the Oak Hill Youth Center, many of which are unsecured and have been entered and vandalized. While the report improperly attributes the maintenance of these properties to the Youth Services Administration, the agency currently occupies only limited buildings located on the old Forest Haven site. Nevertheless, the District is responsible for these buildings and will, as part of its overall strategy for the future of this 888-acre site, take affirmative action to secure these properties. As to the allegations that the utilities should be terminated, the Youth Services Administration has learned that the Forest Haven facility was constructed prior to current water, sewer and electrical standards and therefore these services cannot be disconnected because these electrical systems provide the street lighting necessary to maintain security visibility at Unit 6 for the female youth), along each street in the parcel of the land, for the Training Academy, and the Union’s facility. In addition, YSA must maintain water flow because it provides water to all fire hydrants on the property and serves the Woodland Job Corps, which was originally a part of this site.
In light of the Blue Ribbon Commission recommendation to demolish and rebuild the Oak Hill Youth Center at or near its current location, the Williams Administration has received proposals from both government and private groups for use of the land and must determine the most appropriate approach. I have tasked the members of my team to work with other government officials and the various stakeholders to develop a recommendation in May.
The Inspector General alerted the Youth Services Administration to employees operating government vehicles without valid state driver’s licenses and government motor vehicle identification cards, and vehicles being operated with expired inspection stickers. The Youth Services Administration has taken affirmative steps to ensure that employees who do not possess a valid District of Columbia driver’s license or government motor vehicle identification card are not be permitted to operate one of its vehicles. The Youth Services Administration has requested additional vehicles to keep from operating vehicles with expired inspections stickers, but those vehicles must continue to be operated, on the grounds of Oak Hill for maintenance use only, until such time as the new vehicles arrive. The Youth Services Administration is cooperating with these ongoing investigations and is looking forward to working with the Office of the Inspector General to correct these and the other deficiencies identified in the Part One draft report of investigation.
The Subcommittee has asked me to testify about whether a receiver should be put in place for the Youth Services Administration in connection with the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Appointment of a Transitional Receiver filed in the Jerry M. litigation in December of 2003. Let me begin by expressing my understanding from the attorneys in the Office of the Corporation Counsel who represent the District in the litigation that the presiding judge requested that the parties not try the motion in the media and, of course, I am mindful of the court’s admonition. However, the Subcommittee has specifically requested that the District present testimony on this important issue and I will do so. The Superior Court of the District of Columbia held a three-day hearing on the motion on February 23-25, 2004, and I testified in the government’s behalf on the third day of the hearing along with Ms. Marceline D. Alexander, the Interim Administrator, Mr. John M. Manuel, the Acting Deputy Administrator for Secure Programs, and Ms. Martha B. Knisley, the Director of the Department of Mental Health.
Of course, I leave representation of the District of Columbia in the Jerry M. litigation in the capable hands of the Corporation Counsel and his assistants. I understand that the plaintiffs bear the burden of demonstrating that a transitional receiver should be appointed to oversee the Youth Services Administration. District of Columbia v. Jerry M., 738 A.2d 1206, 1214 (D.C. 1999). The trial court must consider six factors in determining whether appointment of a receiver, transitional or otherwise, is justified: (1) whether there have been repeated failures to comply with the court’s orders; (2) whether additional efforts to bring defendants into compliance would lead only to confrontation and delay; (3) whether leadership is available that can turn the tide within a reasonable period of time; (4) whether defendants acted in bad faith; (5) whether defendants are wasting resources; and (6) whether appointment of a receiver would provide a quick and efficient remedy. Dixon v. Barry, 967 F. Supp. 535, 550 (D.D.C. 1997). We have urged the court in our filings not to impose a receiver, transitional or otherwise.
The Jerry M. Consent Decree, entered by the Court on July 24, 1986, comprises 185 provisions and 43 pages of requirements governing the delivery of services by the Youth Services Administration. These provisions cover a broad range of complex issues including diagnostic and treatment services, education, mental health and medical services, discipline and training, recreation, transition and aftercare services, environmental and sanitation, and community programs. The District has made incremental progress over the course of the last two years, achieving compliance with 35 additional provisions of the 185 provisions of the Consent Decree and reducing by two-thirds the number of non-compliant findings reported by the Court Monitor between September 30, 2000, and June 30, 2003. The Monitor’s 51st Report measured the six months between July 1 and December 31, 2003, the time period following the departure of the former Administrator who provided stable leadership prior to her departure in August 2003. This was a period of great transition, during which there were two different interim administrators for brief periods of time before leadership was stabilized by the Mayor’s appointment of Ms. Alexander. Some slippage during this less stable time period is not unexpected. Nonetheless, the District still maintained compliance with 23 additional provisions since September 30, 2000, and, essentially, maintained the two-thirds’ reduction in non-compliant findings. This record contradicts the Jerry M. plaintiffs’ assessment that nothing short of appointing a transitional receiver can be done at this stage of the litigation. Because the District has made incremental progress over the last three years, albeit, not as quickly or as comprehensively as anticipated or required, it is unreasonable to conclude that additional efforts to secure compliance will be futile and lead only to confrontation and further delay.
I cannot say that I am satisfied with the District remaining under this litigation nearly 18 years after it was first initiated. I can say, however, that I am very confident in our current direction and with the progress we are making and feel that our current approach, not a transitional receiver, is without question the best way for the District to meet the requirements of the Consent Decree. I can say that appointment of transitional receiver does not provide a quick and efficient remedy. Ms. Alexander and Mr. Back have been on task for nearly four months and their labors are beginning to bear fruit. I would like to highlight their accomplishments for the record:
Security Improvements at Oak Hill Youth Center
- Security Enhancements – MOU with DOC for Security at Perimeter Locations and at the Facility Checkpoint.
- Security staff added to the entrance of Central Administration Building.
- YSA is in working collaboratively with (MPD, CFSA, Court Social Services and OCC) to establish an absconders unit who will return all youth in ascendance status to YSA custody.
- YSA has introduced drug sniffing dogs at Oak Hill.
- Increased staffing on housing units additional supervisors (2).
- YSA has changed location for visiting in order to provide better observation and security.
Substance Abuse Enhancements/Treatments at Oak Hill Youth Center
- YSA has established a therapeutic atmosphere at Oak Hill that is based on the concept of Corrective Treatment and Balanced and Restorative Justice. This therapeutic atmosphere serves as the foundation for additional services including substance abuse.
- YSA is entering into a short-term MOU with APRA to provide substance abuse counseling until the Substance Abuse Free Environment or SAFE Program is implemented. This MOU would entail APRA supplying YSA with two Certified Substance Abuse Counselors for approximately 6 months. YSA would use Unit 9B, which is designated for substance abuse treatment, and YSA would pay for this service by using Re-entry Funds. Contained in the MOU is the number of hours that the substance abuse counselor reports to OHYC. At present, it is anticipated that YSA will utilize the services of the counselors for approximately 21 hours per week at a cost of $28.00 per hour.
- RFP for the Residential Substance Abuse Program at Oak Hill was issued on February 15, 2004 and will close on April 2, 2004. YSA held a Pre-Bidder Conference at the Office of Contracting and Procurement on March 1, 2004 and 15 people attended, representing 12 different organizations. It will take approximately 4 to 6 months before services associated with this residential treatment program will begin.
- YSA has also established a SAFE Program for Unit 6.
- YSA has identified YCO’S who are certified addiction counselors who will be placed in unit 9B on a permanent basis.
- YSA is reassigning youth with substance abuse needs to unit 9B.
- Voice and Motion Players (VAMP) will increase numbers of times they visit the housing units to 2 times a week
- YSA has hired an additional rehabilitation specialist with a background in addiction treatment.
- YSA continues to provide Specialized Training to all Diagnostic Treatment Team Leaders: These specialized training session will consist of:
Writing and Implementing the Effective ISP Interviewing Youth Planning Successful Team Management
- Continues to train case managers in conjunction with Dr. Marty Beyer – Jerry M. Consent Decree expert – which consist of:
Strength Based Assessments Treatment Plans
- YSA has hired two Assistant Superintendents for Treatment.
- YSA has hired 18 additional YCOs, 2 Licensing Monitors and 1 Chief of Licensing from CFSA, 6 program analysts, and 5 Juvenile Justice Institutional Counselors.
- YSA has filled one and is currently recruiting to fill for 3 Deputy Administrators for:
Secure Programs Court and Community Programs (filled) Performance Management Deputy Administrator for Support Services (Chief Administrative Officer)
- YSA is also currently recruiting to fill:
Oak Hill Youth Center Superintendent Training Manager Intensive after care workers Cooks IT professionals
- YSA has entered into an MOU with D.C. Parks and Recreation’s Roving Leaders to provide services to youth in community based programs.
- YSA has assigned a staff member to ensure that all youth are reviewed for Medicaid Eligibility once they enter the system.
- YSA launched its licensing of group homes in March and has implemented additional monitoring/inspection procedures for all group/shelter homes.
- YSA has signed a statement of work for three group home solicitations: generic, therapeutic, and therapeutic substance abuse. The generic group home is scheduled to go through the District’s Procurement Review Committee for approval on April 2, 2004. The therapeutic group home is ready for placement on the web and should be on the web by March 31, 2004. The therapeutic substance abuse group home will be ready by April 15, 2004, provided that revisions are finalized and the Procurement Review Committee approves it. In the interim, YSA is working on additional statements of work for shelter and vocational group homes.
Educational Programming/Enhancements – Oak Hill Academy
Consistent with the Jerry M. Consent Decree, all youth entering Oak Hill receive education assessments within 72 hours. DCPS has on staff 2 Assessors who provide this service.
- DCPS staff involved in the diagnostic process come together every Tuesday to assess the youth’s educational and vocational test scores as well as educational history in an effort to develop an educational track/plan.
Changes In Educational Services
- Oak Hill Academy has instituted two changes in Educational Services to meet the individual needs of its students: how to schedule students in their classes, and increase in programs to support the school’s focus on reading and mathematics across all content areas.
- DCPS has requested and YSA will provide additional YCOs who will be specifically designated as DCPS YCOs who will reside in the school to support the needs of the new and revised day and after school programs.
- During the 3rd Advisory, student’s class schedules will better reflect their Individual Service Plan (ISP), school credit, and interest needs.
- Students will be scheduled in classes based on educational programming dictated by their ISP.
- DCPS received an AOL Grant in the amount of ($10,000). This grant will enable 15 students needing remediation services for graduation, or college/college preparation classes to take computer courses on line.
- DCPS will be expanding its evening program to include a school band, book club, public speaking class, typing class, chess class, debating team, math and reading tutorials.
- DCPS will also offer athletic intramurals such as football and basketball.
- DCPS has also hired a Reading Specialist, who will support teachers’ efforts to modify instruction to meet the reading deficits that impact students’ learning.
DCPS Volunteer Groups
- Georgetown University and American University enable DCPS to provide tutorial services in such areas as job preparation, GED training, improvement in communication skills and self-esteem building.
- American University’s Washington College of Law has 13 tutors who each assist one male student, academically and socially. They meet every Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 .m. in the main school building.
- Georgetown University provides tutorial services for female residents on Unit 6. This group is comprised of 8 tutors, working on a one-on-one basis to help the female students attain higher academic success in need areas. These tutors are on Unit 6 every Sunday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- DCPS has arranged for the Public Defender Service to provide evening classes on Street Law.
- DCPS in conjunction with YSA conducts Interdisciplinary Community Transition Planning Meetings. The purpose of these meetings is to develop the aftercare plans that will address the needs of committed youth within the context of the Balanced and Restorative Justice principles of community safety, accountability, and competency. These meeting are held 90 days prior to a youth’s projected release date.
- DCPS has also established Oak Hill Transition Specialists Program Guidelines and established in DCPS are 5 individuals responsible for transition/coordination services related to Oak Hill youth. The youth transition into four schools Anacostia, Ballou, Cardoza and Roosevelt Senior High Schools. Students are also transitioned into other charter schools as applicable.
Moreover, plaintiffs seek to provide six months for the transitional receiver to prepare a work plan and an additional year to put the plan in place. On the other hand, I directed Ms. Alexander to prepare and submit her comprehensive work plan for achieving Jerry M. compliance to me in May, and I fully expect that the plan will include further organizational adjustments gleaned from the past four months and a recommendation of whether the Youth Services Administration should become a cabinet-level agency. The selection of a new transitional receiver itself would take weeks, in addition to the delay identified above in preparing a plan and implementing it. The quicker and more efficient remedy is to permit the current Interim Administrator to continue her stabilization efforts and concentrate on recruiting for a permanent Administrator to assume the reins of a reinvigorated Youth Services Administration. I believe that I have demonstrated in my testimony to the court on February 25, 2004, and before this Subcommittee this morning, that leadership is available that can turn the tide within a reasonable period of time at the Youth Services Administration. In addition to developing a comprehensive work plan for the Youth Services Administration by May 2004, Ms. Alexander’s priorities include hiring staff, identifying and obtaining needed resources, developing more collaborative relationships with other agencies and stakeholders, and finalizing an organizational structure for the agency. Ms. Alexander already has hired 35 new staff and created a new organizational structure. She prepared Fiscal Year 2005 budget enhancements for the new Youth Services Center and is working to bring that facility on line. She and her senior staff have met with sister agencies and other stakeholders, including Councilmember Sandra Allen (Chair of the Council of the District of Columbia’s Committee on Human Services) to develop collaborative strategies in delivering improved services to our youth. Ms. Alexander has met with Dr. Margaret Beyer, the parties’ stipulated aftercare expert, about moving forward with the agency’s group and shelter home solicitations and other Order B issues. Ms. Alexander is putting in place a management team that address each of the deficiencies identified in the Inspector General reports, the Court Monitor’s 51st Report, and the Blue Ribbon Commission Report. We fully expect the Court Monitor’s 52nd Report to substantiate the progress we are making in the first half of the current calendar year.
Ms. Alexander and her special counsel, Mr. Back, have direct access to me for consultation, review or assistance with any issue on a 24/7 basis. In addition, the team that I began to assemble in October 2003 continues to provide its support to this multi-agency reform initiative. In short, the Youth Services Administration is a top priority of the District of Columbia. The Williams Administration is resolved to making all necessary reforms to continue to make improvements in the delivery of services to our detained and committed youth.
I want to thank this Subcommittee for the opportunity to testify on behalf of Mayor Williams concerning the progress made at the Youth Services Administration. Ms. Alexander, Mr. Back, and I are available to answer any questions.
Back to top of page
Testimony of Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., Esq.
Director, Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
Before the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on the District of Columbia for the Review of Deficiencies at the District of Columbia’s Youth Services Administration Hearing
March 30, 2004
Good afternoon, Mister Chairman and members of the Subcommittee. My name is Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., and I am the Director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS). I come before you today to provide testimony on the experience of the Public Defender Service as one of the lead counsels representing the plaintiffs in Jerry M., et al v. District of Columbia. The complaint was filed 19 years ago this month. Too many years have elapsed, too many hearings have been held and too many court orders and findings of contempt have been entered for me to give a full recitation of the history of this case in my allotted time. Suffice it to say, from the perspective of the youths we represent, a full recitation would have very few highlights and too many lowlights in the story of how the District has served them. For context, I will give a cursory chronology, focusing mainly on the events of the past year.
The Jerry M. class action litigation began in March of 1985 with the filing of a complaint challenging the District’s failure to provide the children housed at its Oak Hill facility with adequate care and rehabilitation services and seeking relief on behalf of a class of children then being detained at Oak Hill. In July of 1986, the parties entered into a lengthy Consent Decree. As part of the Consent Decree, a Monitor was appointed to assess the District’s compliance with its commitments. In the almost 18 years since the parties entered into the Consent Decree, the case has been assigned to three different judges. These judges, using the Monitor’s reports as a basis, have separately found the District out of compliance with the Consent Decree on a number of occasions. Each judge has also been forced to enter a series of enforcement and other orders.
One particularly notable order entered by Judge Urbina stemmed from the Consent Decree provision that called for a panel of experts to determine (1) the number of secure beds the District was to plan for, and (2) the types of community-based services the District would be required to create. The goal of this continuum of services plan was to reduce the population in secure confinement and provide viable community-based alternatives for delinquent children. The findings of the original panel were incorporated into the Consent Decree by Memorandum Order B. Based on the recommendations of the expert panel, the Judge ordered that the District draft a plan for a juvenile system in which no more than 42 youth are securely detained and no more than 60 committed youth are securely confined. Memorandum Order B also requires the District to create specific community-based programs such as staff secure shelter houses, therapeutic groups homes, foster care for delinquent youth, and a vocational program with residential beds.
The case is currently before the Honorable Judge Dixon. In September 2002, Judge Dixon held a hearing requiring the District to show cause why it should not be held in contempt for failing to comply with six specific provisions of the Consent Decree. These provisions involved the adequate training of staff, the quality of the assessment and diagnosis of the children, the existence and quality of the pre-release unit, and the sufficiency of exercise provided to the children at Oak Hill. Two months later, in November 2002, plaintiffs filed an emergency motion alleging that the District was failing to comply with two additional provisions involving overcrowding in the girls’ unit and the staffing of a program called Project Hands. In June 2003, Judge Dixon ruled on the September 2002 hearing, finding that the District was in violation of the Consent Decree. He found that there was a lack of proper training of the Oak Hill staff and inadequate supervision of the staff. In addition, he found inadequate coordination between the teams that are responsible for assessing the treatment needs of the youths when they enter the facility and the teams that are responsible for delivering the treatment. Finally, Judge Dixon found the District was failing to comply in the area of providing adequate facilities prior to a youth’s release from confinement. Judge Dixon held the District in contempt and imposed monetary sanctions. However, the judge also allowed a grace period during which the District was to cure the violations. The grace period was different for each violation, but the last grace period expired in mid-September, 2003. At the end of each grace period, the District filed notices claiming to be in compliance with the disputed Consent Decree provisions.
In September 2003, Judge Dixon held an evidentiary hearing on the plaintiffs’ November 2002 emergency motion asking that the District be found in contempt for failing to comply with the Consent Decree by having an overcrowded girls’ unit and improperly staffing Project Hands. In addition, the hearing was to address the question of whether the District had cured violations with respect to the pre-release unit at Oak Hill. Judge Dixon has not yet ruled. In October 2003, Judge Dixon had a hearing to determine whether or not the District had come into compliance with the Consent Decree provisions concerning staff training, staff supervision, and coordination between assessment staff and treatment staff. On October 6, 2003, in anticipation of the coming hearing, the Monitor issued a report finding that the District remained out of compliance with respect to each of these issues. In December 2003, plaintiffs filed a motion requesting the court appoint a transitional receiver. Judge Dixon held a hearing on the receivership motion in February 2004.
I should draw attention to one other aspect of the litigation. The District has liked to point to the school at Oak Hill as one area in which it has managed to come into compliance. While the school is currently a bright spot at Oak Hill, the District is neither in full compliance with the Consent Decree nor does it deserve full credit for what has been achieved. In June 1997 the Court, at the time Judge Levie, found the District in contempt of the education provisions of the Consent Decree and appointed Dr. Peter E. Leone as special master for education. Dr. Leone was the receiver for education at Oak Hill from 1998 to 1999 and was able to help the District significantly in complying with the Consent Decree regarding Oak Hill’s education system. At the receivership hearing, Dr. Leone pointed to five main areas of achievement during his tenure as educational receiver at Oak Hill: (1) academic achievement; (2) school climate; (3) human resources; (4) fiscal resources; and (5) leadership.
Despite the great strides made by Dr. Leone, the educational system at Oak Hill is still not in complete compliance. For example, there remain significant problems with nonattendance by some units and a lack of sufficient YSA programs to reintegrate youth at Oak Hill into the community education system upon their release. Dr. Leone testified at the receivership hearing that residents in the disciplinary unit and in the girls’ unit are not getting standard educational services because of poor coordination among various departments at Oak Hill. Moreover, the Monitor in his latest report found that, while YSA contracts with the University of the District of Columbia for vocational classes for the boys, there are no equivalent programs for girls.
The Public Defender Service believes that the accomplishments of Dr. Leone as the receiver for education at Oak Hill demonstrate what a receiver could accomplish for the whole system. And the whole system is in need of repair. Just prior to the hearing on the receivership motion, the Jerry M. Monitors issued their 51st report on the District’s compliance with the Consent Decree, evaluating the prior six months. The Monitor’s most recent findings exemplify the history of the District’s failure to meet its responsibilities to the youth entrusted to its care. The Monitor found the following:
- The District was out of compliance with 81 of the Consent Decree’s provisions and in compliance with only 95. See Exhibit 1.
- The District decreased its level of compliance in 19 Consent Decree provisions.
- The prior six months were a “microcosm” of the past almost 18 years of the District’s failed efforts to comply with the Consent Decree, as demonstrated by the latest leadership void which exists at YSA and the lack of both a permanent Superintendent and an Assistant Superintendent in charge of treatment at Oak Hill. While the District appointed two lawyers – Marceline Alexander and Mark Back – from the Office of the Corporation Counsel, to assume the mantle at YSA on an interim basis, neither Ms. Alexander, who is currently the Interim Administrator for YSA, nor Mr. Back, who is her special counsel, have any juvenile justice experience.
- Accordingly, there were few efforts to move towards compliance except for last-minute actions that seemed “driven by the fact that a hearing was imminent” rather than a real effort to make positive change in the manner in which District children are being treated and rehabilitated.
Our contention in the receivership motion and at the hearing was this -- the District has been given 18 years to comply with the Consent Decree, and, despite extensive litigation, sixty-five court orders, and multiple findings of contempt, has failed to do so. Accordingly, the Plaintiffs requested that the Court appoint a transitional receiver to assume control of YSA until the Consent Decree’s mandates could be met and maintained. Plaintiffs’ motion noted numerous examples of non-compliance, including YSA’s failure to follow a suicide prevention plan for youth at Oak Hill, its failure to address the recurring violence against securely confined children by both Oak Hill residents and staff, the commingling of detained and committed children, overcrowding, and the ongoing environmental problems at Oak Hill, including lack of proper heating and cooling and lack of pest control.
The Defendants responded that the Court did not need to take the extraordinary step of appointing a receiver because, in essence, the District was making “incremental progress” in complying with the strictures of the Consent Decree and because appropriate leaders were now again in place to ensure that YSA could continue to plan to make reform efforts. Judge Dixon held the hearing on the motion for a transitional receiver February 23 –25. At the hearing, the Plaintiffs presented comprehensive evidence of the failings of YSA to create a safe environment for children at Oak Hill and the specific failings of the District’s efforts to comply with the 1986 Consent Decree, arguing that the District’s claims of incremental progress were dubious since the Defendants had been given ample time to comply and that it was now time for the Court to intervene and secure final compliance. The primary witness for the Plaintiffs was Paul DeMuro, an expert in juvenile justice and child welfare services. He testified that the District had failed to comply with the decree and that the Court should appoint a receiver because the District had (1) failed to protect youth committed to YSA from harm; (2) failed to implement an effective classification and treatment program at Oak Hill, such that residents suffered long periods of lockdown, detained and committed and low and high-risk youth are intermingled, treatment is not tailored to a youth’s particular needs, and substance abuse treatment is inadequate; (3) failed to develop an effective system of management and quality control so that staff and programs throughout YSA can be held accountable; and (4) failed to develop and implement a viable community continuum of care, such that community-based alternatives to secure detention at Oak Hill failed due to weak supervision, substandard housing, and a lack of accountability. In fact, just as in Oak Hill, the shelter houses merely warehouse children rather than provide therapeutic services: 1) there is no clinical supervision of staff; 2) many youth arrive without school placements; 3) few children in shelter houses receive drug treatment; and 4) there is no individual or family counseling for children. Notably, in July 2002, after studying the group home and shelter house problem and in consultation with the Jerry M parties, an expert gave the District specific recommendations regarding the issuing of requests for proposals (“RFPs”) from new shelter and group home providers equipped to offer the services required by the Consent Decree. While the District, faced with a receivership hearing, finally completed RFPs for 3 new programs, it still has not fully implemented the expert’s recommendations some two years later.
The observations of our expert, the court-appointed monitor, and the Inspector General only hint at the breadth of the District’s failure to protect children at Oak Hill from harm. Violent incidents - including knife fights and assaults serious enough to result in broken jaws - occur with alarming frequency at Oak Hill. Life on the residential units at Oak Hill is quite harsh and, accordingly, not at all conducive to treatment. In one particularly disturbing incident that took place just last Fall, nine residents sexually assaulted another resident in the victim’s room.
In addition, the practice of assigning more than one child to a room has lead to the commingling of status offenders and delinquent youth, as well as delinquent and committed youth. For example, these practices led just last Summer to a child detained as a truant and runaway being housed in the same room as a youth detained on charges of negligent homicide. The District also housed in another room both a runaway and a child detained for a number of serious delinquency reasons, including armed robbery and carrying a dangerous weapon.
Not only do these housing practices violate the plain letter of the Consent Decree, but they also compromise the very safety of the children and have resulted in nothing less than the realization of everyone’s greatest fear: harm to children in the District’s custody. For example, just last year, a 12 year-old child, held at Oak Hill as an overnighter and not accused of any crime, was placed in a room with two other children. An overnighter is a child eligible for release after some police contact, but whose parents cannot be reached. The overnighter was sexually assaulted by one of the other youth. There was no indication that any staff members were supervising the youth, as staff only learned of the incident two days later. Several months later a 13 year-old was arrested and held at Oak Hill waiting for shelter house space. The 13 year-old was placed in a room with the same child that committed the prior sexual assault and another sexual incident occurred. Perhaps equally troubling is the fact that there is evidence that these types of incidents may be even more widespread than we know, as incidents at Oak Hill are underreported.
The Defendants, in response, presented District government officials at the hearing, who testified that the current leadership was adequate to begin the process of planning to comply with the 18-year old Consent Decree, quibbling with Plaintiffs’ evidence on issues such as whether the rats observed by Mr. DeMuro were in fact mice, whether Oak Hill residents suffered five or six broken jaws from July through December 2003 and whether the conceded severe drug use by Oak Hill residents actually constituted drug abuse.
The parties filed post-hearing briefs 2 weeks ago and reply briefs just last week. We are currently awaiting Judge Dixon’s ruling. While we believe that the evidence we presented at the hearing supports our request for the appointment of a transitional receiver and we are optimistic that the court will grant our motion, we would take little pleasure in this litigation win. We wish the District had the will and capacity to meet its obligations without the need to conduct protracted litigation. Indeed, our overriding vision and our goal for the past 19 years has been the provision of adequate care and rehabilitation services for the children committed to YSA. The Public Defender Service consists of a group of lawyers; we do our work in the courts. Thus, our primary way of working towards our goal is through this litigation. However, litigation is but one of many means to an end. That is why we support legislation currently before the District of Columbia Council that calls for the closure of Oak Hill and the development of smaller, community-based secure facilities in its place and requires the provision of various services to youth which the District has failed to afford to date. There are many roads to the destination of providing adequate care and rehabilitation to youth in the juvenile justice system. The Public Defender Service will be satisfied to reach that destination by any of those routes. We are not satisfied to continue to take the incremental steps forward, with many steps back that has been the history of YSA’s actions in this case.
1. Juveniles are “detained” when they are held pre-adjudication, before a fact-finding hearing on whether they committed the delinquent act(s) with which they are charged. Juveniles are “committed” when a judge has determined that the juveniles did commit a delinquent act and has also determined that the juveniles are in need in services to be provided by YSA. Juveniles are said to be “committed to YSA.” District Code § 16-2313(b) requires that detained youth and committed youth be confined separately.
2. Project Hands is a division of YSA that investigates allegations of staff misconduct at Oak Hill, including allegations of assaults on youth by staff.
3. In fact, over the past eight months, there have been four different YSA administrators, including Ms. Alexander; three Deputy Administrators for Secure Programs; four Deputy Administrators for Court and Community Services; two Superintendents of Oak Hill; and three Assistant Superintendents in Charge of Treatment.
Back to top of page
Testimony of Eugene N. Hamilton
Senior Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and Chair of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Youth Safety and Juvenile Justice Reform of the District of Columbia
March 30, 2004
Mr. Chair and Members of the Committee, I am pleased to speak with you today regarding the District of Columbia’s juvenile justice system. In terms of my personal outlook and with regard to my professional role (as a judge and as the former Chief Judge of the Superior Court), it is not customary for me to testify on matters of public policy. I do not speak here for the Superior Court of the District or as a Judge of that court. I am here today in my status as the Chair of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Youth Safety and Juvenile Justice Reform, and because I share your concern about the children and families of the District of Columbia.
I would also like to note for the record that I appear before you today at your Committee’s request. I have also recently provided testimony before the Judiciary Committee of the D.C. Council, both at their request and on my own volition, as that legislative body considers proposals related to the District’s juvenile justice system. I say this as I would like to make clear that I am sensitive to issues of “home rule” and believe that the D.C. Council and District agencies are equipped to deal with these local issues of concern, while I also acknowledge Congress’ oversight and funding responsibilities for the District of Columbia.
As I indicated, I recently had the privilege of leading an effort to study juvenile justice reform for the District of Columbia. The Mayor asked me to chair the Blue Ribbon Commission, which consisted of twenty talented people and outstanding staff, and the Commission members represented -- in various ways and from divergent perspectives -- the broad concerns and mixed interests of this community. We worked together for about a year and a half.
The Mayor asked us to offer policy recommendations. More specifically, we were to: assess delinquency prevention strategies and explore model programs, identify strengths and weaknesses in rehabilitative and supportive services and programs, explore the research on youth violence and substance abuse, examine how our current institutions were working, and develop strategies for serving children and youth in their neighborhoods and communities. The Mayor issued an explicit call for the Commission to formulate a vision and seamless network of youth service ideals that “treat children as children.” This is an approach with which I fully agreed, and I was happy to devote time to these critical issues.
The Commission did a comprehensive study of the delinquency system in D.C., examined the research, and looked at promising and effective approaches from around the country. Let me say, parenthetically, that the Commission, with its broad expertise and diversity of viewpoints, worked hard and worked successfully to find common ground, to find compromises and nuanced approaches that balanced the concerns expressed from every conceivable side of these issues. The Commission issued a lengthy report, which I incorporate in my Testimony -- and I ask that it be made a part of the Record. In the Report, we provided many recommendations, which I believe, constitute a solid “blueprint” for effective reform of the juvenile justice system in the District. This “blueprint” is based on research and study, as well as a broad, balanced, and representative inquiry.
I should note that I am pleased that many of the Commission’s recommendations have now found there way into a legislative proposal – the “Blue Ribbon Juvenile Justice and Youth Rehabilitation Act of 2004” -- which is currently pending before the DC Council. This legislation, which seeks to codify many of the Commission’s recommendations, is based on research and study, and a broad, balanced, and representative inquiry. I have testified before the Council in support of this legislation and will continue to encourage its passage. I should also note that there is other legislation pending before the D.C. Council – which among other things would send more youth into the adult criminal justice system and create policies to punish parents of delinquent children in the name of “accountability” – that I believe would be counterproductive, and I have testified against this approach before the Council. I should remind you, in this regard, that as part of the 1997 District of Columbia Revitalization Act, the federal government assumed responsibility for housing through the federal Bureau of Prison all District of Columbia persons who are sentenced to prison through D.C.’s (adult) criminal system.
The legislation recently proposed by the City Administration is completely inconsistent with the Recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission. I have to point out that the proposals in the City Administrator’s bill are also inconsistent with agreements and promises that his predecessors in D.C.’s executive branch made seventeen or eighteen years ago in the context of the Jerry M. class action, a lawsuit regarding both the deplorable conditions at Oak Hill Youth Center as well as the lack of community-based alternatives to incarceration for children in the District of Columbia. After failing for almost two decades to comply with the requirements of the Jerry M. consent decree, which was designed to treat children as children and reduce and prevent juvenile delinquency, the District now seeks to treat more juveniles as adults (assuming, incorrectly, that redefining children as adults and sending them to federal prisons is an effective and humane approach for reducing and preventing criminal activity by children) One of the Blue Ribbon Commission’s primary goals was to set out a plan to get the services and supports in our delinquency system to work. The Commission strongly believed that to accomplish this goal requires putting a sunset on the Oak Hill Youth Center. The Commission has recommended that we all work together to close Oak Hill and to move away from placing delinquent (or allegedly delinquent) children into large facilities. It does not work to put troubled children into a place with 180 other delinquent children. Furthermore, we know that guards are smuggling illegal drugs into Oak Hill and that children who tested negative for illegal drugs before entering the institution are now testing positive. We know also that children are confronted with violence and the risk of serious bodily injury at Oak Hill.
There are better ways to secure children whom we need to constrain. What the Commission found is that the “best practice” is to limit juvenile incarceration facilities to thirty beds. We investigated approaches around the country and settled particularly on what has happened in Missouri. At a time when Attorney General John Ashcroft was the governor, Missouri successfully moved to a system in which children who are incarcerated are in facilities that do not exceed thirty beds. Predictably, following this transformation, the recidivism rate in Missouri has declined significantly.
Before I describe further the Commission’s recommendations, let me underscore another critical finding from the Commission: one hundred percent of the committed youth in the District’s delinquency system are African-American and Latino youth. White children and youth are arrested for a range of delinquent offenses, but they do not end up at Oak Hill. The Commission recommended that we study and understand why this disparity exists and how to get rid of it. With this in mind, any proposed changes to the system should be viewed through a lens which considers whether the proposed change (such as sending more children to federal prisons) would increase and exacerbate the racial and ethnic disparity and injustice that currently exists, and if so that proposed change should be discarded. Rather than increasing the disparate treatment, we should be reforming the system in ways that promote prevention, and, specifically, to promote racial parity and justice, we should be expanding community-based treatment and alternatives to incarceration for minority children.
The Blue Ribbon Commission also identified and promoted for possible implementation in the District of Columbia several model state systems. The Commission identified in Figure 11, the Offenses for Committed Youth, June 16, 2000 to June 15, 2001. The single largest number offenses were unauthorized use of a motor vehicle (U.U.V.). This finding cries out for intensive re-habilitation and treatment programs shown to be effective in rehabilitating juvenile U.U.V. offenders. Over the period of the Jerry M Decree, no such programs existed at Oak Hill. Community Programs, such as the Auto Technician Training Program under the direction of Mr. George Stark, are designed to place juvenile U.U.V. offenders in and around motor vehicles in a positive, productive manner, and Programs of this type should be greatly expanded.
Moreover, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (of the Department of Justice) has developed the Guide for Implementing the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent and Chronic Juvenile Offenders. The Annie E. Casey Foundation – that funded the Blue Ribbon Commission -- has produced an extensive series of reports for understanding and implementing juvenile detention reform. I understand, as well, that the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report on Youth Violence in January of 2001, and that report contains a listing of tried and true programs, including, for example, multi-systemic therapy and therapeutic foster care. In the Jerry M. case, which is the litigation over conditions at the Oak Hill facility that I mentioned previously, there also exists “Order B” of the consent decree that provides a blueprint for a continuum of community-based services.
The District of Columbia can and now must accomplish the objective of moving away from institutionalizing children. There is, remarkably enough, a consensus among all of the stakeholders in the District of Columbia that Oak Hill should close. Yet, it has not happened, and one can predict that it won’t happen if we continue along the present course. We face the inertia of government and a particularly insidious Catch 22: People believe that we can’t close Oak Hill (and move to the Missouri model) until we have adequate community-based services and alternatives to incarceration. At the same time, we plow the very human and financial resources into running Oak Hill that are necessary for developing the community-based services and alternatives to incarceration. Thus, the Jerry M. parties agree to Order B, and eighteen years later the children still don’t have a continuum of community-based services. I am reminded of what happened with Cedar Knoll. It was a minimum to medium security incarceration facility for D.C. children. Virtually everyone agreed that we didn’t need a large institution for locking up relatively young children who were not dangerous. Yet Cedar Knoll did not close until Congress wrote in D.C.’s 1993 budget that there would be no money spent on Cedar Knoll. Then, finally, it closed.
In addition to setting a date for the closure of Oak Hill, there should be deadlines for establishing a continuum of services in the community. There should be a study to establish the number of secure beds that are needed. And on that point, I can tell you that the number of children at Oak Hill has dropped to as low as 120 in the last year or year and a half. That number – 120 children – includes detained and committed children, and we got to that number – at least temporarily – without having sufficient services in the community to treat U.U.V. offenders and other non-violent children.
With regard to the Jerry M. Consent Orders (and I remind you that a consent order is an order that both parties proposed and agreed to before the judge ordered it), the Blue Ribbon Commission implored the District to comply with those Orders. Unfortunately that has not happened, and the substance of those Orders – particularly Order B calling for the creation of community-based services – has yet to be accomplished.
In sum, I believe the Commission’s recommendations are a solid “blueprint” for reform, and I would encourage any legislators or policy makers considering these issues to support and fund these recommendations to the fullest extent possible.
Beginning at page 27 of the Report, the Commission outlines the specific steps that are needed to reform the juvenile justice system of the District of Columbia. Key to any reform, however, is the closing of Oak Hill, because unfortunately, it has become simply a cruel training place for more sophisticated juvenile offenders. Secondly, there must be a sea change in the philosophy of the District’s juvenile justice system, from primarily large institution custody to only small facility custody and to community-based alternatives to incarceration, together with frequent assessment and continuous treatment.
Thank you again for inviting me to speak with you today, and I would be more than happy to answer any questions.
Back to top of page
BEFORE THE SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
“Review of Deficiencies at the District of Columbia’s Youth Services Administration” March 30, 2004
GOOD MORNING CHAIRMAN DEWINE AND MEMBERS OF THE SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. MY NAME IS AUSTIN ANDERSEN, AND I AM THE INTERIM INSPECTOR GENERAL (IG) FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL, OR OIG. JOINING ME TODAY IS ALVIN WRIGHT, JR, ASSISTANT IG FOR INSPECTIONS; ROBERT ISOM, DEPUTY ASSISTANT IG FOR INSPECTIONS; AND LAWRENCE PERRY, DIRECTOR OF PLANNING AND INSPECTIONS.
YSA IS ONE OF THE LARGEST COMPONENTS OF THE DISTRICT’S DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES. IT IS CHARGED WITH DEVELOPING AND ADMINISTERING A CITYWIDE SERVICE SYSTEM THAT EMPOWERS YOUTHS ENTRUSTED TO ITS CARE TO BECOME LAWFUL, COMPETENT, AND PRODUCTIVE CITIZENS. THE OAK HILL YOUTH CENTER OPERATED BY YSA IN LAUREL, MARYLAND, HOUSES JUVENILES SENT BY THE COURTS FOR BOTH SHORT- AND LONG-TERM DETENTION.
OUR INSPECTION TEAM FOUND SIGNIFICANT DEFICIENCIES IN ALL KEY AREAS OF MANAGEMENT AND OPERATIONS IN YSA, AND PARTICULARLY AT OAK HILL. I WILL BRIEFLY SUMMARIZE SOME OF THE KEY FINDINGS IN OUR REPORT OF INSPECTION BEING RELEASED TODAY. MANAGEMENT AND INTERNAL CONTROL ISSUES THE INSPECTION TEAM FOUND MANY EMPLOYEES WHO WERE HIGHLY MOTIVATED AND DEDICATED TO CARRYING OUT YSA’S MISSION. HOWEVER, MANAGEMENT AND LEADERSHIP OF YSA HAS BEEN UNSTABLE BECAUSE YSA HAS HAD DIFFICULTY RETAINING ITS TOP MANAGERS. THIS HAS RESULTED IN A CHRONIC LACK OF EFFECTIVE SUPERVISION OF EMPLOYEES, DIMINISHED ACCOUNTABILITY, AND INSUFFICIENT OVERSIGHT OF CRITICAL OPERATIONS AT ALL LEVELS. THERE WERE FOUR DIFFERENT ADMINISTRATORS OF YSA DURING THE PERIOD OF THIS INSPECTION. FOR LONG PERIODS, OTHER SENIOR MANAGEMENT POSITIONS HAVE BEEN EITHER VACANT OR FILLED BY EMPLOYEES IN AN INTERIM OR ACTING STATUS. FOR EXAMPLE, IN NOVEMBER 2003, THE INSPECTION TEAM COUNTED 16 KEY POSITIONS THAT WERE VACANT.
MANY OF THE SAME TYPES OF PROBLEMS THAT RESULTED IN THE 1986 JERRY M. LAWSUIT STILL EXIST 17 YEARS LATER. BETWEEN 1998 AND 2003, YSA SPENT APPROXIMATELY $3.6 MILLION ON CONSULTANTS IN AN EFFORT TO BRING YSA INTO SUSTAINED COMPLIANCE WITH THE JERRY M. DECREE. HOWEVER, A NUMBER OF THESE PROJECTS WERE NOT PROPERLY MONITORED AND RESULTED IN UNAUTHORIZED OVERSPENDING AND UNFULFILLED OBJECTIVES. FOR EXAMPLE, YSA PAID A CONSULTANT APPROXIMATELY $1.25 MILLION BETWEEN 1999 AND 2001 TO IMPROVE THE AGENCY’S INFORMATION MANAGEMENT SYSTEM, YET THE CONSULTANT NEVER PROVIDED THE DELIVERABLES SPECIFIED IN THE CONTRACT. YSA HAD TO HIRE ANOTHER CONSULTANT TO DO THE WORK DESIRED. EVEN AFTER HIRING ANOTHER CONSULTANT, HOWEVER, YSA’S IT SYSTEM STILL CANNOT GENERATE BASIC STATISTICAL REPORTS. THE TEAM ALSO FOUND THAT DOCUMENTATION AND DELIVERABLES FOR SOME CONTRACTS COULD NOT BE ACCOUNTED FOR.
YSA POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ACROSS THE BOARD FOR THE PROVISION OF SERVICES TO YOUTH WERE EITHER OUT OF DATE OR NONEXISTENT.
THE INSPECTION TEAM DOCUMENTED INADEQUATE SEARCHES OF EMPLOYEES AND VISITORS AT SECURITY CHECKPOINTS, AND THIS ALLOWED CONTRABAND SUCH AS ILLEGAL DRUGS TO ENTER THE FACILITY. SECURITY EQUIPMENT SUCH AS METAL DETECTORS WAS PRESENT BUT NOT BEING USED. THERE WAS WEAK SECURITY AT THE MAIN ENTRANCE AND THE COMPOUND PERIMETER. THE TEAM DID OBSERVE SUBSEQUENT IMPROVEMENT IN THE SECURITY GUARD UNIT AFTER DIRECT INTERVENTION BY CITY ADMINISTRATOR ROBERT BOBB. MR BOBB REPLACED INADEQUATELY SUPERVISED CONTRACT SECURITY GUARDS WITH BETTER-TRAINED AND MORE CLOSELY SUPERVISED DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS EMPLOYEES.
OTHER SECURITY PROBLEMS OBSERVED BY THE TEAM INCLUDED:
- INOPERATIVE AND INSUFFICIENT ELECTRONIC MONITORING EQUIPMENT;
- INADEQUATE TWO-WAY RADIOS AND PHONES FOR CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS IN THE FEMALE UNIT;
- AN UNSECURED DOOR IN THE GATEHOUSE CONTROL BOOTH;
- YOUTHS NOT BEING PHOTOGRAHED WHEN REMANDED TO OAK HILL;
- INADEQUATE BACKGROUND CHECKS ON EMPLOYEES WHO REGULARLY INTERACT WITH YOUTHS; AND
- NO DETAILED PROCEDURES OR TRAINED STAFF TO HANDLE ESCAPES. DRUGS AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE
A NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES TOLD OUR TEAM THAT ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES SUCH AS MARIJUANA AND PCP ARE SMUGGLED INTO THE OAK HILL FACILITY REGULARLY. YOUTH CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS EMPLOYED BY YSA ARE ALLEGED TO BE A PRIMARY SOURCE OF ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES USED BY OAK HILL YOUTHS. ACCORDING TO SOME YSA OFFICIALS, ALMOST 100% OF YOUTHS AT OAK HILL HAVE SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROBLEMS, YET THE INSPECTION TEAM NOTED THAT OAK HILL HAS NOT HAD A STRUCTURED SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROGRAM AS REQUIRED BY THE COURT SINCE APRIL 2003. PRIOR TO THAT DATE, A VENDOR PROVIDED A SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT PROGRAM, BUT REPORTEDLY CHOSE NOT TO RENEW ITS CONTRACT BECAUSE YSA COULD NOT PREVENT THE INFLUX OF DRUGS INTO THE OAK HILL FACILITY. THE TEAM ALSO NOTED THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HAS FUNDS AVAILABLE TO ASSIST YSA WITH A TREATMENT PROGRAM. HOWEVER, YSA HAS NOT MET THE REQUIREMENTS NECESSARY TO OBTAIN SUCH FUNDING.
WE ALSO FOUND SIGNIFICANT DEFICIENCIES IN THE DRUG SCREENING PROGRAM, INCLUDING A LACK OF PROCEDURES AND TRAINING FOR COLLECTING URINE SAMPLES, LACK OF A CHAIN OF CUSTODY FOR SAMPLES, AND POOR RECORD KEEPING.
SAFETY AND HEALTH ISSUES
THE INSPECTION TEAM FOUND SERIOUS FIRE AND OTHER SAFETY DEFICIENCIES THAT PUT OAK HILL YOUTHS AT UNACCEPTABLE RISK:
- MISSING FIRE EXTINGUISHERS;
- NO FIRE DRILLS;
- NO EMERGENCY EVACUATION PLAN;
- MANUAL DOOR LOCKS ON RESIDENTS’ ROOMS THAT COULD IMPEDE ESCAPE DURING A FIRE OR OTHER EMERGENCY; AND
- INSUFFICIENT KEYS AVAILABLE TO CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS TO UNLOCK DOORS DURING EMERGENCIES.
WE FOUND THAT THE CULINARY UNIT DOES NOT HAVE WRITTEN SANITATION POLICIES, FOOD SERVICE PERSONNEL ARE NOT REQUIRED TO UNDERGO ANNUAL PHYSICAL EXAMINATIONS, AND SOME OAK HILL FACILITIES DO NOT MEET FEDERAL AND LOCAL CODES REGARDING ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH, AND SAFETY STANDARDS. THE TEAM OBSERVED POSSIBLE ELECTRICAL AND FIRE CODE VIOLATIONS, EXPOSED RUSTING AND LEAKING PIPES, AND EVIDENCE OF VERMIN INFESTATION. IN ADDITION, NUMEROUS ABANDONED BUILDINGS ON THE OAK HILL COMPOUND ARE UNSECURED AND HAVE BEEN VANDALIZED.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ISSUES
YSA’S KEY COMPUTER DATABASE IS OUTDATED AND CANNOT BE MAINTAINED BY CURRENT STAFF. AS PREVIOUSLY STATED, THE SYSTEM CANNOT GENERATE STATISTICAL REPORTS. IN ADDITION, SOME YSA DEPARTMENTS DO NOT HAVE COMPUTER ACCESS. THESE PROBLEMS IMPAIR YSA’S ABILITY TO EFFECTIVELY MANAGE DAY-TO-DAY OPERATIONS.
THE CONDITIONS FOUND AT YSA THUS FAR STRONGLY INDICATE THAT THE MANAGEMENT AND LEADERSHIP OF SENIOR DHS AND YSA OFFICIALS HAVE BEEN WEAK AND INEFFECTIVE. CONSEQUENTLY, THE INSPECTION TEAM RATES YSA A POORLY PERFORMING COMPONENT OF THE DISTRICT’S JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM.
OUR REPORT CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING PRINCIPAL RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE MAYOR AND THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES:
- MAKE YSA A SEPARATE, CABINET-LEVEL AGENCY REPORTING DIRECTLY TO THE DEPUTY MAYOR FOR CHILDREN, YOUTH, FAMILIES, AND ELDERS. THIS WILL REDUCE THE EXISTING MULTIPLE LAYERS OF BUREAUCRACY, AND COULD MAKE YSA EXECUTIVE POSITIONS MORE ATTRACTIVE TO EXPERIENCED AND COMPETENT ADMINISTRATORS WILLING TO STAY IN PLACE FOR THE LONG TERM.
- FULLY PARTICIPATE IN THE U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT’S PERFORMANCE-BASED STANDARDS SYSTEM FOR JUVENILE FACILITIES. THIS SYSTEM WAS DEVELOPED BY THE COUNCIL OF JUVENILE CORRECTIONAL ADMINISTRATORS TO ASSIST YOUTH FACILITIES SUCH AS OAK HILL IN CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVING THE CONDITIONS OF CONFINEMENT AND THE SERVICES PROVIDED.
THIS CONCLUDES MY TESTIMONY, AND I WILL BE HAPPY TO RESPOND TO YOUR QUESTIONS.