Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Some local residents want a juvenile justice facility on upper 14th Street closed

The other day I got an email about a petition: some people want to close Alternative Solutions for Youth at 5808 14th Street NW, which the petition organizers call a jail.

The city, however, calls it a community residential program, sort of a halfway house for juvenile offenders. Youth live there and have counselors who work with them with the idea to prevent future crimes and reintegrate them into society.

Here's the text of the petition:
To cut a long and convoluted story short, “Alternative Solutions for Youth” at 5808 14th St. NW is running an atrocious mess that they call rehabilitative services, but what DC classifies as a jail. An older neighbor confirmed that they did not consult or even notify the neighborhood before creating this monstrocity. They also do not even have the proper city permit to be in operation in Sixteenth Street Heights, as confirmed by our ANC rep. However, we´ve just discovered that their property is conveniently cut out of what should be governed by SSH.
To:
DCRA
Steve Baynes, DYRS
Vincent Gray, Mayor of Washington, DC
Neil Stanley, DYRS
State Sen. Muriel Bowser, District Of Columbia-004
Close the dangerous "jail" at 5808 14th St. NW. We need an investigation into the shoddy safety measures (barbed wire, falling down fences, boarded-up windows) and possible abuse happening in this "rehabilitation center."
It is a direct danger to us neighbors and a detriment to our community, not just because of the associated criminal activity, previous escapes, and arson, but also harassment, littering, and obscenities yelled by employees.
Please help protect the young children, elderly neighbors, and all of us neighbors.
Sincerely,
[Your name] 
Organizer Chancho Peludo says on the petition's site that the facility is in violation of five code codes. I reached out to the organizers to ask for some documentation of that and the other claims in the petition, that there is arson and littering and that they don't have a proper city permit, and am waiting to hear back. I would also assume that they didn't consult the community about it because they didn't need to, because zoning permits this use. And from what I can tell, DC doesn't consider this a jail, unless you consider a youth halfway house a jail.

The facility does have lots of fencing and barbed wire, but according to the petition, after they posted pictures of the backyard, ASY cleaned it up.

Two juveniles who were at the facility have been killed while in the facility's care, though city officials noted it's normal for youth who are there to be out on the street, maybe going to or from school or work -- another example of how this isn't a jail. Another youth cut off his GPS tracking bracelet and escaped, but was recaptured. Peludo cites these as examples that the facility is substandard, but I'm not sure I agree. Having two youth killed is obviously terrible, but isn't necessarily due to something about the facility. And I'd have to see how many youth escape from similar facilities to see if one escaping is rare or actually below normal.

It's an interesting situation. Obviously I support juvenile justice programs and arresting criminals, I hope this sort of program is effective, and I'm not sure I'd want a similar facility as a neighbor, but I'm not yet convinced to agree with this petition. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They vacated the building a week or so ago. Since you support their work, call them and offer them a place in your neighborhood.