A new study released by the District of Columbia courts system showed that less than half of juvenile offenders in Washington in 2007 had new cases filed against them after they were placed on probation or put under the supervision of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.
The National Center for Juvenile Justice found that Washington's rates of reoffending for juvenile offenders were slightly higher than the average in a number of other jurisdictions, including Maryland and Virginia. However, researchers said that those numbers were expected since D.C. is a concentrated urban area, as opposed to a state with a mix of urban, suburban and rural communities.
The center, which is based in Pittsburgh, studied 1,222 juveniles who were "adjudicated delinquent" – the juvenile equivalent of being found guilty – in cases that began in 2007. They were either placed on probation, which is run through the Family Court Social Services Division of District of Columbia Superior Court, or were committed to the youth rehabilitation services department, which could mean community-based supervision or detention. The study tracked the juveniles through the end of 2008.
After a case was filed but before juveniles began probation or supervision under DYRS, about 25 percent of the group had new cases filed against them. During their probation or DYRS supervision, about one-third of the group had a new case filed against them. About 49 percent of the juveniles studied had a new case filed against them during or after their probation or DYRS supervision.
About 19 percent of the group never had a new case filed against them during the time they were studied.
Melissa Sickmund, who led the study for the National Center for Juvenile Justice and serves as the center's interim director, said that the numbers for the District "are well within expected ranges." She said the center is working with the court to improve how they collect data so that they can complete these types of surveys more regularly in the future.
A spokeswoman for DYRS, LaShón Beamon, said she couldn't get into the details of the study's data, but said that they're confident recidivism rates will continue to decline as a result of the department's work with the court to create programs for juvenile offenders. A report released by the department earlier this year showed that overall re-arrest and re-conviction rates for juveniles under DYRS supervision between 2004 and 2010 have fluctuated over the years.
In a statement, Superior Court Chief Judge Lee Satterfield said that court officials "were pleased to see that juvenile recidivism rates in DC were comparable to other urban jurisdictions in 2008." He noted that since 2008, the court has put in place several new initiatives, including programs designed for teenage girls and for juveniles with mental health problems.
"We are confident that juvenile probation is serving DC better in 2012 than in 2008," he said. "To track juvenile behavior over time and collect information from neighboring jurisdictions requires a significant commitment of time and effort; the Court plans to replicate the recidivism study next year to assess the impact of our program enhancements."
A few other findings of note included a determination that the racial breakdown of offenders didn't match the racial breakdown of youths in the city. About 96 percent of juvenile offenders ages 10 to 17 who were studied were black, while black youths in the same age range made up 75 percent of the city's total population in 2007. About 13 percent of the juveniles studied were female, but the report didn't specify how that compared to total city population of female youths at the time.
The most common offenses committed by the group were called "person offenses," which accounted for about 40 percent of the cases and could include anything from robbery to assault or homicide. More than half of the juvenile studied, about 53 percent, had prior cases.
A full copy of the study is available here (PDF).