The D.C. Superior Court has been awarded $613,660 in federal funds for an experimental program to give serious juvenile offenders a chance to make restitution for their crimes through community service or monetary payment to their victims, Chief Judge J. Carl Moukrie I has announced.
The two-year program is intended to give Superior Court judges an alternative to sentencing youths to serve time in either of the two city institutions for juvenile offenders. It will also provide more intensive supervision for juveniles placed on probation by the court.
Most of the federal money will go to the Southeast Neighborhood Settlement House and the Shaw Mental Health Center to hire community service counselors, employment specialists and clerical workers to assist, the court in placing juveniles in restitution projects.
Six probation officers, already employed by the court, have formed a special unit to closely supervise youths selected for the program, court officials said.
The Superior Court division of social services will administer the program, which is to begin early next year. A total of 24 youths who would otherwise be incarcerated, and 140 youths who are on probation will be selected, upon the recommendation of court officials, to participate in the program, said Kevin Fidgeon, assistant deputy director of the social services division.
Participants younger than 16 would make restitution through community service at charitable organizations and community agencies, Moultrie said in a statement about the program.
If an offender is older than 16, officials will decide whether community services or payment to the victim is the appropriate form of restitution. Part of the program will include employment placement and training for juveniles if monetary payment is to be made.
Once a juvenile is selected and voluntarily agrees to participate, a restitution agreement will be drawn up and signed by the youth, the victim - provided the victim also agrees to participate - and representatives of the social services division and the community service agency.
As part of the program, a mediator from the Washington-based Center for Community Justice will assist in negotiating agreements, Fidgeon said.
The center will also receive funds to train probation officers, defense attorneys and community service workers for participation in the program.
The District was one of 50 cities chosen to participate in the program by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. The program at the Superior Court, and in seven other cities, will be examined as part of a nationwide evalution of the effectiveness of juvenile restitution as a sentencing alternative.