D.C.’s New Approach To Juvenile Offenders: Is It Working?


Washington, D.C., on a swath of federal land in suburban Maryland, the District of Columbia has transformed its juvenile lockup, says USA Today. What was once a filthy prison for boys is now a campus-like setting where the worst young offenders work their way through a heavily structured program of individualized education, group therapy, behavior modification and programs like “Guns to Roses,” an art project that turned 28 illegal weapons, melted down by police, into sculptures.

Washington based its $46 million facility – built as part of a court-ordered agreement from a 25-year-old lawsuit over its treatment of juvenile offenders – on programs used for decades in Missouri, the state with the lowest rate of juvenile repeat offenders in the nation. New Beginnings, a 60-bed lockup that opened in June, is the most prominent example of increasing interest from other states and cities in the “Missouri model” for turning around deeply troubled, and troublemaking, young people. Still, with three young men under the supervision of Washington, D.C.’s juvenile justice agency charged with the murder of a popular middle school principal, the agency is under intense scrutiny.

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