U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova has informed D.C. City Council members that he opposes legislation that would allow special treatment for young offenders similar to that provided under the repealed federal Youth Corrections Act.
DiGenova stated his position in a letter sent to council members on the same day that council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8) introduced a bill to provide for special treatment and rehabilitation for offenders under the age of 22.
Yesterday, diGenova said he is concerned about any attempt to allow special treatment for criminals between the ages of 18 and 22.
"That is the single most serious group of offenders," said diGenova. "We are not talking about juveniles. We are talking about young adults committing a disproportionate number of violent and dangerous crimes."
Nevertheless, Rolark said in a statement released with her bill that she is seeking to provide regulation for the rehabilitation and punishment of 18- to 22-year-old offenders who have been convicted of crimes other than murder. She also said that the bill is similar to the repealed federal law.
The Rolark bill would require the mayor to designate facilities that would segregate the young offenders from older offenders and provide special treatment, education and rehabilitation. In lieu of prison terms designated by other laws, judges would be able to sentence young offenders to a period of treatment and supervision not to exceed six years. After meeting certain conditions, offenders would be eligible for release before completing their sentences and could have their records expunged.
The bill is sponsored by Council Chairman David A. Clarke and council member Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large).
DiGenova, in a letter written to Rolark and circulated to other council members, argued that there are some misconceptions about the effectiveness of the former federal law and that "it would be a mistake" for the District to use it as a model.
"I applaud and encourage efforts to rehabilitate youths who have become involved in crime," diGenova wrote. "However, I believe that the repealed federal law had failed in that regard. Even more alarming, its failure had constituted an undue danger to the citizens of the District of Columbia. Therefore, its local reenactment would be unwise."
As of June 30, 1984, diGenova said the breakdown of crimes committed by offenders in the city's youth center included 17 homicides, 6 rapes, 164 robberies, 53 assaults, 81 burglaries and 54 larcenies.