DC Attorney General wants restorative justice for all juvenile cases, even murder

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said Friday, during an American University Law Review discussion on Race and the Juvenile Justice System, that he wants restorative justice to become "the default way of dealing with juveniles" – even for some of the most serious crimes, like murder. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee have argued that police are making the arrests but violent juvenile offenders, especially in carjacking crimes, are not being held accountable.

Mayor Bowser said on Wednesday, "… Not every young person, should be in a diversion program." 

The Office of the Attorney General repleted in a recent email to FOX 5. "As a rule—and with almost no exceptions—OAG does not offer diversion for crimes of violence, including carjacking," the email stated. 

The OAG spokesperson also provided FOX 5 with the following information on juvenile carjackings prosecutions last year:

· Zero juvenile carjacking cases were diverted in 2021.

· In 2021, OAG papered (meaning filed charges in) 101 juvenile carjacking cases. Note: These cases do not exactly map to MPD’s 2021 carjacking arrest data; some of the cases OAG papered in 2021 may have occurred in 2020.

· Of the 101 carjacking cases OAG papered in 2021, 78 young people were held responsible for a crime (this is the juvenile justice system’s equivalent of being convicted).

· The remaining 24 cases are a mix of those that are still pre-trial and those that were dismissed (likely for lack of evidence).

· The juvenile justice system works differently from the adult system. In the juvenile justice system, judges can choose to place an adjudicated delinquent youth on probation or "commit" the youth to DYRS. The judge can commit the youth to DYRS custody/supervision for any period of time up to the youth’s 21st birthday. Whether the youth is placed in secure detention is, under the law, left to DYRS to determine. (The judge does not have the authority to sentence the youth to a period of incarceration, that is a choice made by DYRS.)

The Mayor’s office argued on Friday that while the OAG is not offering diversion programs for youth offenders committing violent crimes, they are offering a restorative justice program that the Mayor’s team claims is essentially a "post-adjudication diversion program."

It was explained to FOX 5 there is still prosecution even if the juvenile is entered into the AG's Restorative Justice Program

The Mayor’s Office also claimed more youth offenders of armed robbery are going to the OAG’s restorative justice program, over DYRS and court monitoring. 

An official in the Mayor’s office clarified there is no exact "carjacking" charge for juvenile offenders and explained many of these cases fall under juvenile armed robbery charges.  

In 2021, the Mayor’s Office told FOX 5, the District had a total of 283 juvenile armed robbery cases prosecuted with these sentencing results:

· Alternative disposition (deferred agreement)- 119 [OAG restorative justice program]

· Dismissed- 55

· Committed- 46 [to DYRS]

· Probation- 63 [under supervision of DC Superior Court Family Court Social Services Division [FCSSD]]

The OAG’s office could not confirm these figures. Nor could the Mayor’s Office confirm the OAG’s figures.

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FOX 5 requested both offices provide information on which juveniles convicted in carjacking-related cases last year re-offended. 

We also requested more information on what programs those juveniles recommitting violent offenses were assigned to before recidivism occurred.

The Attorney General noted in his panel discussion that restorative justice is only offered if the victim wants it. The AG’s office told FOX 5 in 2021, their office only had two carjacking cases and three armed robbery cases that went through the Attorney General's restorative justice program.

This is a developing story. Check back with FOX 5 for updates.