HEARING STATEMENT: SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA APPROPRIATIONS DEFICIENCIES IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA'S YOUTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
Contact: Amanda Flaig
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Speech of Senator DeWine
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 eight minutes to present his testimony. As usual, the remaining witnesses will be limited to five 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.
Subcommittee on the District of Columbia Appropriations Deficiencies in the District of Columbia's Youth Services Administration
Date: March 30, 2004