Killing or Being Killed While in DYRS Custody

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, October 17, 2009

This is a story about Eddie Crist and how the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services contributes to violence on our streets. But first a preface.

Once a youth offender is found guilty, or "adjudicated" by the court, and is committed to DYRS, the city assumes responsibility for the case. Disposition is left up to DYRS Director Vincent Schiraldi, who has often stated that he prefers to "serve" committed juveniles "in the communities in which they live."

I have written often about such youths. Several have committed violent acts or have themselves become victims of violence. Whenever I ask DYRS to explain why such young people have been released to the community for "services" rather than receiving rehabilitative treatment in a secure setting, as most judges prefer, DYRS answers that it is prohibited by law from discussing individual cases. The department also dismisses my columns about these youth as uninformed and "anecdotal."

The case of Eddie Crist sheds light on how DYRS operates. It is based on a report, obtained from a government source, which was written by David Muhammad, DYRS's chief of committed services.

Eddie, now 17, was committed to DYRS on June 6, 2008, on charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle, destruction of property, and -- get this --"Assault on a Police Officer."

Pretty serious, yes?

On June 11, five days later, DYRS placed Eddie in a foster home, where he was supposedly linked with a community agency for services.

Reportedly things went well until November, when DYRS learned Eddie wasn't going to school. So the agency placed him on what it calls "Intensive Third Party Monitoring (ITPM)" which means someone has to check up on him frequently.

That may have been too much for Eddie. On Dec. 29, 2008, he ran away from his foster home.

Muhammad said DYRS immediately issued a "custody" or arrest order for him.

Eddie remained at large for three months. There's no evidence he ever left town.

He was picked up on March 21, 2009, and sent to Oak Hill Youth Center, the city's secure detention facility, pending a hearing. Not surprisingly, Eddie's freedom was revoked. But DYRS developed a new case plan and returned him to his foster home with a new community release agreement, including a requirement for bi-weekly drug testing.

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