Washington Grantmakers member Mary Hallisy, executive director of the Carter and Melissa Cafritz Charitable Trust, testified at a public oversight roundtable on Tuesday in support of the reform effort underway at the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS).
The roundtable, called by Councilmember Tommy Wells (W6), chair of the Committee on Human Services, allowed DYRS leadership and community members to address recent concerns about placement and release of youth under DYRS supervision.
Hallisy, chair of WG’s Children, Youth and Families Older Youth Taskforce, noted that in the years the group has been working on reform efforts, members have “witnessed with great dismay the past policies and practices prevalent in the District’s – and the nation’s – juvenile justice systems.” In recent visits to the Oak Hill facility, however, the group has seen and supported reforms being implemented by DYRS Director Vincent Schiraldi, such as improved facilities, an quality education program, and an approach rooted in principles of positive youth development.
Towards the conclusion of the hearing, Wells noted the overwhelming show of support for Director Vincent Schiraldi and the new direction, while promising his committee would maintain its rigorous oversight of the department.
Schiraldi: “Sometimes we make mistakes, and when we make mistakes, we deserve to take a slap for those mistakes. But I don’t apologize for trying to get young people who don’t belong in incarceration to not be in incarceration. There are plenty of juvenile justice directors in America who are only too happy to consign a whole generation of young black men to incarceration. I’m just not one of those.”