New Beginnings, the youth detention center at the heart of Washington, D.C.’s efforts to reform its juvenile justice system, is overcrowded and has been housing more young offenders than at any point since the $46 million facility opened last year, reports the Washington Post. Built to house up to 60 people, New Beginnings has been holding as many as 80 youths in recent days, taxing resources and patience at the center and alarming reform advocates who see the focus on rehabilitation slipping away.
With the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services taking a harder line on juveniles who fail to keep in contact with the agency, more youths are ending up at New Beginnings for short stays that critics say are at odds with the mission of the facility. Once there, juveniles find a place that is increasingly volatile, where its school is coping with constant student turnover and where, over the summer, there was a surge in the use of isolation as a way to punish misbehavior. David Domenici, principal of the school, the Maya Angelou Academy, said, “We feel increased tension and notice higher levels of violence as the numbers increase.”