Washington, D.C.’s juvenile corrections agency has announced reforms in how it releases at-risk youths into the community, says the Washington Post. Aimed at improving public safety and strengthening services, the initiatives are worthwhile, editorializes the newspaper. Two people had to die for the agency to realize that there were dangerous gaps in its procedures. An 18-year-old boy had been in custody since age 15 for killing a man. Last fall, after less than 2 1/2 years in custody and treatment, he was released. Soon after, he was charged with killing an art student, 21, and a boy, 17, in separate cases.
The decision to release the youth was made without the knowledge or approval of agency director Vincent Schiraldi or his top deputy; the youth was supposed to have been placed in a halfway house, but when no beds were available, a last-minute decision was made to release him to his aunt; more than a week elapsed before he received support services. A drug arrest before the two recent killings should have triggered a revocation hearing, but a hearing was delayed, and the youth remained free. The reforms during Schiraldi’s tenure have markedly improved a department that was once a national disgrace, says the Post, but they won’t survive if public safety is treated as cavalierly as it was in this case.