28 July, 2010

PSA 102 NPSC is Looking for Comments on Juvenile Legislation

Hi All,

As we move into the Fall Season, we will again be looking into legislation that affects juveniles. While we have found this to be a sensitive topic and I personally have been told by some running for Mayor and also reelection to City Council, that they are not supportive of any legislation that will hold juveniles accountable for violent crime and make some records public including names.

Opening up the juvenile process to allow for the release of names will have an affect on crime, the question is how. In response to some political pressures and the failure of our past efforts to move similar types of legislation through the type of city council we currently have, the following Bill has been crafted.

Please review and provide comment. What do you want and what can you accept? We are looking for all comments on these issues. We have made substantial changes in some laws and this is one piece that remains outstanding.

Summary Of Bill 18-344
Expanding Access to Juvenile Records Amendment Act of 2010

Bill 18-344 concerns the confidentiality of information about juveniles who are in the juvenile justice system. Major changes to the current law include:

1. Amends the DYRS establishment act to permit the MPD to access without court order certain records – such as surveillance tapes – in the possession of DYRS when needed for investigating a crime allegedly involving a youth in the custody of DYRS. This amendment addresses a conflict between Titles 2 & 16 of the D.C. Code – the latter permitting “law enforcement officers [access] when necessary for the discharge of their current official duties.” This conflict came into focus June 20th when MPD responded to a melee at New Beginnings but had to get a court order before being able to view video tapes of the melee.

2. Rewrites D.C. Code §§ 16-2331, 16-2332, and 16-2333 (regarding confidentiality) to improve clarity.

3. Provides that the following information shall be public information:

A child’s name, the fact that he/she was arrested, the arrest charges, the charges filed in court, whether the child was found guilty (“involved”) and, if so, the charges for which he/she was found guilty, and the child’s initial disposition (i.e., probation or DYRS commitment).

Such information shall be public information only if:
∙ The child has been found guilty of a crime of violence or certain dangerous crimes, or found guilty twice of certain other felonies, including UUV, stolen auto, or felony assault; or
∙ The individual has been found guilty of any felony or a misdemeanor assault within three years of the conclusion of his juvenile sentence.

The public availability of this information will enable the public to demand accountability of government agencies responsible for prosecuting or rehabilitating juveniles, and will pierce the veil of confidentiality behind which some chronic, violent juvenile offenders seem to thrive.

4. Requires the MPD to publish statistics twice yearly detailing by PSA the number of juveniles arrested, as well as the charge(s) and dates of arrest.

5. Authorizes an official of MPD, Court Social Services, or DYRS to disclose certain information – but not records – about a juvenile delinquent to a school official or mental health professional when, in the professional judgment of the official, disclosure of the information will assist in the protection, welfare, treatment, or rehabilitation of the juvenile.

6. Establishes an Abscondence Review Committee (5 members plus 2 ex officio) to examine what steps could have prevented juvenile abscondence where a homicide, assault with intent to kill, or assault with a deadly weapon (firearm) was committed by or to the juvenile.

7. Preserves the status quo in the current law regarding confidentiality by making explicit that, notwithstanding the public availability of certain information, a juvenile shall not be required to disclose, and shall have the right to refuse disclosure of, his or her juvenile delinquency information in an application for employment, education, or housing.

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