(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the end of court oversight and monitoring in Jerry M., et al. v. District of Columbia, et al., a 35-year-old class action lawsuit filed in 1985 on behalf of youth in the District’s secure juvenile detention facilities. The termination of the oldest consent decree case was approved by the D.C. Superior Court and took place during a virtual hearing before Judge Herbert B. Dixon Jr. this morning. Mayor Bowser attended and spoke at the virtual hearing.
“This milestone reflects our DC values and recognizes our collective and ongoing commitment to providing court-involved youth and their families the highest quality of services. We are proud that DYRS has transformed into a national leader in the juvenile justice space, consistently demonstrating that through a focus on restorative justice, love, and empowerment, we can change lives and continuously reimagine how we serve and improve the lives of our young people, their families, and our entire community,” said Mayor Bowser. “I want to thank Director Lacey and the DYRS staff for their commitment to our youth, our families and community stakeholders for their partnership, as well as the Office of the Attorney General, Special Arbiter Grace Lopes, and the Plaintiffs’ Counsel for their work in getting us to today.”
Since the lawsuit was filed, the District has taken numerous steps to strengthen its juvenile justice system, including creating the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) as a Cabinet-level agency; closing Oak Hill and opening modern facilities; improving the provision of a wide range of rehabilitative services in its secure facilities, ranging from education to medical and behavioral health services; and increasing the safety and security of the facilities through evidence-based behavioral management practices and enhanced staff training and supervision.
“Termination of this decades-long consent decree ensures that vulnerable children are protected and that the District and DYRS will have important flexibility and independence in continuing to provide needed services to our youth,” said Attorney General Karl A. Racine. “This resolution represents a major milestone for the District’s ability to enhance public safety by meeting the rehabilitative needs of our young people and demonstrates that we are fully capable of controlling our justice system. We are thankful to DYRS Director Lacey and his predecessors for their leadership, and for the contributions of our community partners, Special Arbiter Grace Lopes, the Plaintiffs’ counsel, and Chad Copeland and other dedicated OAG attorneys, whose tireless work helped the District achieve this important result.”
“We aspire to translate the ideas of love and the willingness to work with young people while investing in their healing, growth and development – like you would your own child – into public policy. We see each of our youth not as the sum total of their experience or actions, but as a whole person worthy of love who is part of a family and a community. That kind of aspirational work is never done,” said DYRS Director Clinton Lacey. “I would like to thank Mayor Bowser for her constant support and leadership; the DYRS managers, support staff, and frontline workers for their dedication to quality services; our youth, families and community stakeholders for their partnership; as well as the Office of the Attorney General, Special Arbiter Grace Lopes, and the Plaintiffs’ Counsel, in helping us reach this historic moment.”
Ahead of today’s termination, Mayor Bowser issued Mayor’s Order 2020-115 to establish the Office of Independent Juvenile Justice Facilities Oversight. This office will monitor DYRS secure juvenile facilities for three years to ensure that the progress made throughout the course of the lawsuit will be sustained and continuously improved in the best interest of court-involved youth and their families. The Mayor appointed Mark Jordan, who has worked for the Office of the Special Arbiter for 16 years and as part of court oversight of DYRS, to serve as the Executive Director of the new office.