Prior to the public hearing on the Youth Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act, national and DC local organizations signed the following letter in support of the legislation. If your organization would like to support YOARA, please email us at email@example.com. If you are an individual who would like to support YOARA, please sign the statement of principles.
October 22, 2014
Dear Councilmember Wells,
On behalf of the Judge Our Youth Campaign and the undersigned organizations, we are writing in support of Bill B20-0825 (The Youth Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act).
Incarcerating youth under age 18 in adult facilities places them at higher risk of suicide and victimization, limits their educational and work opportunities, and makes them more likely to commit future crimes. Despite these facts, the District of Columbia continues to incarcerate youth in the adult criminal justice system. During 2012, DC youth spent 10,016 days in adult jail – the equivalent of over 27 years. From 2007 to 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent 541 youth under the age of 18 to DC’s Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF), an adult facility with 625 adult inmates and one unit for youth.
These practices decrease public safety and do not provide youth with access to rehabilitative services, despite evidence that a large percentage of these youth will return to the community. Research has consistently shown that youth placed in the adult system are more likely to commit future crimes than youth who are treated in the juvenile justice system. Adult facilities are not equipped to offer the rehabilitative programs youth need to turn their lives around, and staff are often insufficiently trained to work with youth. We support policies that would keep more children out of the adult criminal justice system and we urge the DC Council to pass the Youth Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act.
The Youth Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act (YOARA) would:
- Prohibit holding youth in adult facilities while they are awaiting trial.
- Give youth charged as adults a chance to ask the Criminal Court judge to transfer their case to Family Court if the judge finds such a transfer would serve the public interest.
- End “once an adult always an adult,” which requires that youth with adult convictions be tried as adults in any future cases, even if charged with offenses that the juvenile system usually handles.
The Judge Our Youth Campaign and the undersigned organizations seek to create a justice system that is more fair, humane, and effective than the one we have today. Sensible reforms like YOARA would enhance public safety, ensure that fewer youth are exposed to the harmful environment in adult jail, and grant more youth access to quality educational and positive youth development programs to support their productive return to the community.
We appreciate your consideration of this critical legislation and urge you to vote favorably on the Youth Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act.
The Judge Our Youth Campaign
ACLU of the Nation's Capital
Alliance of Concerned Men
Black Law Student Association at Georgetown Law
Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth
Campaign for Youth Justice
Center for Children's Law and Policy
Coalition for Juvenile Justice
Community Justice Network for Youth
DC Alliance for Youth Advocates
DC Center for Immigrant Justice
DC Jail Library Coalition
DC Lawyers for Youth
Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop
Georgetown Law Chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild
Jews United for Justice
Justice Policy Institute
Latin American Youth Center
National Juvenile Justice Network
Sasha Bruce Youthwork
Students United of the Washington College of Law
The Sentencing Project
W. Haywood Burns Institute
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
Washington Peace Center