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Capital City Correction: Reforming DC's Use of Adult Incarceration Against Youth

NCJ Number
Alex Peerman; Carmen Daugherty; Ashley Hoornstra; Shannon Beydler
Date Published
May 2014
32 pages
This report recommends policy changes that would decrease the use of adult incarceration for youth in the District of Columbia (DC).
The report recommends that DC lawmakers and policymakers pursue three key changes to DC's justice system. First, judges should be allowed to review a youth's case to consider whether it should be moved to juvenile court. Currently, after youth have been filed directly into the adult system, there is no mechanism for their cases to be then transferred to the juvenile system, no matter what additional facts on the case become available. This would ensure that the initial decision to file a juvenile's case in adult court could be reversed by a judge as the investigation of the case produces sufficient information for a judge to make an informed decision about where the youth should be prosecuted. Second, DC should end the practice of assuming that once a youth is prosecuted as an adult, he or she is to be considered an adult in any subsequent offenses, regardless of offense characteristics. This practice improperly presumes that any youth who was once charged as an adult is disqualified from ever being processed in juvenile court should he or she reoffend by committing an offense that would normally be processed under juvenile court. Third, youth charged as adults should be prohibited from pretrial detention in adult facilities. Such youth are currently held in the adult facility while awaiting trial. Prohibiting this practice would allow more youth access to age-appropriate treatment programs during the pretrial period, and it would ensure that youth are not exposed to the harmful environment of adult jails. Case studies of youth processed as adults in DC are presented, and relevant legislation from other jurisdictions is presented. 4 figures and 166 notes