Many Sentenced Via D.C. Youth Law Commit New Violence

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Hundreds of criminals sentenced by Washington, D.C., judges under a law crafted to give second chances to young adult offenders have gone on to rob, rape, or kill, the Washington Post reports. The Youth Rehabilitation Act’s intent was to rehabilitate inexperienced criminals under 22. It allows for shorter sentences for some crimes and an opportunity for offenders to emerge with no criminal record. A Post investigation found a pattern of violent offenders returning rapidly to the streets and committing more crimes. Hundreds have been sentenced under the act multiple times. In dozens of cases, D.C. judges issued Youth Act sentences shorter than those called for under mandatory minimum laws designed to deter violent crimes. The criminals often repaid that leniency by escalating their crimes of violence on release.

In 2013, four masked men entered the home of a family,  held them at gunpoint, and ransacked the house. One of the invaders, Shareem Hall, was sentenced under the Youth Act. He was released on probation last year. A year later, Hall and a co-conspirator shot and killed a transgender woman, Deeniquia Dodds, 22, in a robbery. Police said the pair were targeting transgender females. “You’re telling me you can come back out on the streets and rob again, hold people hostage again, kill again — because of the Youth Act?” said Joeann Lewis, Dodds’s aunt. Hall is one of at least 121 defendants sentenced under the law who have gone on to be charged with murder since 2010. Four slayings occurred while the defendants could still have been in prison for previous crimes under mandatory minimum sentencing; 30 killings took place while the suspects were on probation. “We have a value in this city that youthful offenders should be rehabilitated,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “But I don’t think anybody expects leniency for violent criminals.”


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