Three juvenile crime victims told their stories yesterday in Washington, D.C., at a hearing on proposed legislation that would allow judges to send certain cases back to juvenile court and to end the pretrial jailing of youths charged as adults, reports the Washington Post. Youth advocates long have maintained that the jail is unfit for juveniles. Prosecutors and crime victims questioned whether city leaders were focused too much on the needs of alleged criminals. D.C. police say robberies by youths are on the rise. Last Friday, three teenagers — 13, 14 and 15 — were charged as juveniles with murder in the beating of a man who was attacked as he walked home from a grocery store.
Across the U.S., legislators are deciding whether to reverse a trend started in the 1990s of placing more juveniles in the adult system. D.C. Council member Tommy Wells said he is trying to balance the desire to punish against research showing that juveniles held in adult facilities are more likely to reoffend because those jails don’t offer the same therapy and education as juvenile institutions. Wells visited the juvenile wing at the D.C. jail and found youths sitting around with nothing to do. Computers were down, and the youths were lucky to get outside once a week — an environment not conducive to rehabilitation, he said. “They are more likely to victimize us again if they don’t get rehabilitation when they are in the system,” he said.