(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the District and Plaintiffs’ counsel have reached a settlement that, if approved by the D.C. Superior Court, will end court oversight and monitoring in Jerry M., et al. v. District of Columbia, et al., a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of youth in the District’s secure juvenile detention facilities. Originally filed in 1985, Jerry M. is the District’s oldest consent decree case.
“The settlement agreement is a tremendous victory for our local autonomy and demonstrates the progress we have made to improve and strengthen the District’s juvenile justice system,” said Mayor Bowser. “I am confident that DYRS, under the leadership of Director Lacey, will continue to lead the way in engaging vulnerable District youth with evidence-based practices.”
Since the lawsuit was filed, the District has taken numerous steps to strengthen its juvenile justice system, including creating the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) as a Cabinet-level agency; closing Oak Hill and opening modern facilities; improving the provision of a wide range of rehabilitative services in its secure facilities ranging from education to medical and behavioral health services; and increasing the safety and security of the facilities through evidence-based behavioral management practices and enhanced staff training and supervision.
In 2015, as a result of the significant progress made by the District, the D.C. Superior Court approved a Partial Class Action Settlement in the lawsuit, reducing court oversight and monitoring. Since then, DYRS has sustained the progress that allowed for the partial settlement and has demonstrated a continued commitment and ability to advance the conditions in the District’s secure facilities to such a level that the parties believe that continued Court oversight is not necessary.
“This settlement is possible because DYRS worked hard to transform the way it supervises and provides services to court-involved youth,” said Attorney General Karl Racine. “Once finalized, this agreement will ensure that we enhance public safety by meeting the rehabilitative needs of our young people. We are thankful to DYRS Director Lacey’s strong leadership in service to the District of Columbia, and for the significant contributions of our community partners, Special Arbiter Grace Lopes, the Plaintiffs’ counsel, and OAG attorneys who helped resolve this case.”
“This settlement demonstrates how far the District has come in serving court-involved youth. Led by our vision, hope, resiliency and empowerment of youth and families, and grounded in the core principles of restorative justice, DYRS will continue provide the highest quality of services to the youth in our care,” said DYRS Director Clinton Lacey. “I want to thank Mayor Bowser for her support, the DYRS staff for their commitment, our youth, families and community stakeholders for their partnership, as well as the Office of the Attorney General, Special Arbiter Grace Lopes, and the Plaintiffs’ Counsel, in helping us reach this historic agreement.”
As part of the settlement and in the spirit of the District’s commitment to ongoing transparency and accountability, the Executive will establish the Office of Independent Juvenile Justice Facilities Oversight, an independent office that will monitor the DYRS secure juvenile facilities to ensure that the progress that the District has made throughout the course of the lawsuit will be sustained and improved upon in such a manner that will allow DYRS to continue towards its vision of providing the nation’s best continuum of care for court-involved youth and their families.