Washington, D.C.’s youth detention center, which is supposed to house no more than 88 juveniles, has had to cram as many as 156 into the facility in recent months during a period of overcrowding that has drawn stern criticism from a court-appointed monitor, the Washington Post reports. The surge in detainees has strained space and staff at the Youth Services Center and has emerged as a critical roadblock in an effort to end a 25-year-old class action suit over the city’s care of juveniles charged with crimes.
Persistent overcrowding at the detention center and a string of security breakdowns at the agency’s new long-term detention center, haven’t helped the effort to end court supervision. Court monitor Grace Lopes said city has long struggled to manage the juvenile offender population and adequately staff facilities. Those failings have potentially perilous consequences. “Individually,” she wrote, “each of these problems can create significant safety risks; in combination, they can give rise to circumstances that pose substantial risk of harm to youth and staff.”