PRESS RELEASE: McDuffie’s Landmark Comprehensive Juvenile Justice Reform Becomes Law As Congressional Review Period Passes

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Among its many provisions, this new law ends the use of solitary confinement on children; restores judicial discretion for sentencing juveniles; and ensures children age-appropriate confinement

Washington, DC – Earlier this week, Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie’s Comprehensive Youth Justice Amendment Act of 2016 became official law.

Introduced in April 2016 by Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie, then-Chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary, and six of his colleagues, and passed by the full council – unanimously – in October, the law makes landmark reforms to the District of Columbia’s juvenile justice system.

“This law makes D.C. safer,” McDuffie said “by changing our juvenile justice system to one that – while still holding young people accountable – also offers an opportunity for rehabilitation. This law also makes the dollars we spend on public safety more efficient by not wasting them on policies that do nothing to make our communities safer.”

This new law will expand voluntary victim-offender mediation; restore judicial discretion when sentencing juveniles; follow Supreme Court precedent by eliminating juvenile life without parole sentences; protect children under 10 from being held at juvenile facilities with teenagers; prohibit the detention of status offenders; move all detained children out of adult facilities; limit the use of solitary confinement on children; better engage the families of detained children; improve the oversight and evaluation of diversion and rehabilitation programs; and require an analysis of the underlying causes of juvenile delinquency.

“Putting kids in solitary confinement achieves nothing to keep D.C. residents safe and, in fact, it makes us less safe by traumatizing the same kids who will likely at some point return to our community. Mandatory minimums make politicians sound tough, but they make our city less safe. Instead of investing a comparatively modest amount of money in rehabilitation, mandatory minimum sentences put D.C. taxpayers on the hook for costly prison sentences and undermine judicial discretion.”