A bold try at rehabbing juveniles

Monday, February 8, 2010

Regarding Nikita Stewart's Feb. 4 story, "D.C. report faults ex-juvenile justice chief in '08 escape":

The escape in question, while obviously unacceptable, was a byproduct of constructive opportunities that the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services offers to youths. There is always a tension in a juvenile justice system that tries to engage young people in a rehabilitative process.

As director, Vincent N. Schiraldi arranged for youths to help rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina, perform Shakespeare at the Folger Theater and other venues, plant trees in neighborhoods, do free landscaping for senior citizens, train middle schoolers in boating skills, compete in and win the public school football championship, appear before the D.C. Council, and, yes, go to a barbecue at the director's house to celebrate their successful Shakespeare performance.

The agency must be held accountable for proper supervision of the youths who are sent to it. That said, it is important to remember that, because of Mr. Schiraldi's leadership, hundreds of young people have had a chance to participate in cultural, volunteer and athletic experiences that have had a major effect in helping many of them move toward more productive lives.

Peter Edelman, Washington

The writer is a member of the advisory board to the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.

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