The Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services Establishment Act of 20041 launched DYRS as the cabinet-level agency for the District’s juvenile justice system. Prior to this time, juvenile detention and placements were overseen by the Youth Services Administration (YSA), a division of the DC Department of Human Services.
Upon recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission on Youth Safety and Juvenile Justice Reform – created by then District Mayor Anthony Williams in 2000 to examine YSA and investigate the facilities and programs serving court-involved youth in the District of Columbia – the Omnibus Juvenile Justice Act of 20042 mandated closure of the Oak Hill Youth Center (the District’s former secure residential facility3) by 2009 and outlined new juvenile justice goals for the District of Columbia, including a reduction of the overreliance on secure detention and placement, developing a continuum of community-based services and placement alternatives, and increasing the emphasis on youth rehabilitation.
Since its inception, DYRS has enacted a number of the reforms set forth in the Omnibus Juvenile Justice Act. Oak Hill was closed in May 2009, when DYRS opened the New Beginnings Youth Development Center, a 60-bed secure facility to house committed youth. New Beginnings provides youth with 24-hour supervision and comprehensive social services that are grounded in the principles of Positive Youth Justice, including physical and mental health care, behavioral modification programs, vocational and life-skills training, educational services and structured recreational activities.
Additionally, DYRS has developed a continuum of community-based placements that allow youth to receive treatment and supervision services in a structured, homelike environment. To strengthen its community-based support services, in 2009 the agency launched DC YouthLink to connect youth with locally-based services to facilitate successful transition back into the community.
1 DC Law 15-335. This law took effect in early 2005.
2 DC Law 15-261.
3 Oak Hill Archive Project. Retrieved from https://blogs.commons.georgetown.edu/oakhill/documents-and-resources/blue-ribbon-commission/.