Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, under fire over juvenile crime and locked in a tight reelection fight, has named a new juvenile justice chief Monday, forcing out the interim director and replacing him with a prosecutor who is a top aide to Attorney General Peter Nickles, reports the Washington Post. Robert Hildum has been the city’s top juvenile prosecutor and is familiar to senior officials at the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.
His appointment took many people surprise and raised fears among some advocates that juvenile justice reform could be set back. “With today’s abrupt decision, the mayor just headed in exactly the wrong direction and risks the stability of these reforms,” said Liz Ryan, head of the Campaign for Youth Justice. Hildum will replace Marc Schindler, who was named interim director in January. Nickles, who was the lead lawyer in a class-action suit over the city’s juvenile justice system before joining the Fenty administration, said Hildum is committed to maintaining and accelerating the reform efforts of the past several years. Nickles said that Hildum’s experience as a prosecutor is an asset at a time when some critics have said that the agency’s focus on rehabilitation has come at the expense of public safety. After a string of crimes linked to juveniles that began with a mass shooting March 30, the agency was criticized.