Sunday, January 4



Robert E. Pierre, Washington Post
- Inside Oak Hill's barbed-wire perimeter in Laurel, harsh punishment for the District's juvenile offenders is out. Therapy is in. The dingy cellblock where the most unruly were sequestered, where they scribbled shout-outs to dead homies and angry threats on the walls, is abandoned. The cellblocks now have carpeting and cushioned furniture.

Striking an officer, smoking marijuana or destroying property no longer gets a young offender thrown into a dark cell to stew. Now, they call a meeting.
It's part of an evolving, controversial effort by the District to deter young delinquents from becoming career criminals by keeping fewer behind bars and surrounding the rest with counselors, drug rehabilitation and social workers at their homes to strengthen broken families.

Vincent Schiraldi is the outspoken architect of change. As director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services since 2005, Schiraldi rejects physical punishment and isolation to teach lessons. Instead, he dispatches his charges to camp in the desert, to rebuild houses destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and to perform Shakespeare for the mayor.

"You have got to lock up as few as possible," he said. "The ones you do lock up, you have got to treat them in a way that can turn their lives around and not create the self-concept that the next stop is D.C. jail and the federal Bureau of Prisons.". . .

During Schiraldi's tenure, the number of youths assigned to the agency has ballooned 73 percent, from 420 to 727 as of early this month. During that time, there has been a steep decline in the number of runaways and a 6 percent decline in recidivism as measured within a year of release.

He reduced the number of juveniles at Oak Hill from 120 to 80 by moving those awaiting trial to a facility in Northeast. . . Many juvenile-justice experts have praised Schiraldi, who won an innovators award from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.


Loose Lips, City Paper -
In his first 24 months as the District's chief executive, Fenty and his team have made a few apology-worthy mistakes. They plagiarized a schools document, they botched the response to a police shooting, and they managed the summer jobs program like a bunch of interns. But can anyone remember the guy in charge actually apologizing?. . . When it comes to matters for which he actually carries responsibility, the closest thing to a mea culpa that's ever escaped Fenty's mouth followed revelations that his deputy mayor for education, Victor Reinoso, had copied language from another school district in putting together a strategic plan for D.C. Public Schools. . . In fact, a Washington Post story notes Reinoso apologized to Fenty, but Fenty never actually apologized to anyone.

Houston Chronicle - The number of crashes at Houston intersections with red-light cameras doubled in the first year after their installation, according to a city-financed study. . . Critics of the initiative, which mails $75 civil fines to drivers photographed running red lights at 50 intersections, said the study shows that cameras actually cause more crashes and bolsters their argument that the program is more about generating revenue than protecting the public.

Stupid City Council Tricks - The D.C. Council has joined 15 states in passing legislation that prohibits government investment in companies doing business with Iran.


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