Erica L. Marshall, in her June 26 Local Opinions commentary, “Fix D.C.’s juvenile justice system to reduce adult crime,” brought welcome attention to the public-safety benefits of diversion programs for young people accused of minor crimes. However, when she asserted that the District “lacks a sufficient diversion program” for youth, she overlooked a resoundingly successful program that needs more funding.
The Alternatives to the Court Experience program in the D.C. Department of Human Services works wonders. ACE assesses each child’s needs and provides individually tailored services to put these young people back on track. Since I took office in 2015, the Office of the Attorney General has dramatically increased our diversions of low-level, nonviolent cases to ACE. Of the approximately 500 youths who completed the program between June 2014 and March, 90 percent haven’t been arrested again. Moreover, 62 percent showed improved school attendance.
ACE’s extraordinary success rate demonstrates diversion’s ability to improve public safety; furthermore, we have data proving that services such as mental-health care, family counseling and mentoring are more beneficial to the District’s youth than prosecution is in these kinds of cases. Indeed, ACE recently won accolades from the Cafritz Foundation and has been profiled by local media.
I agree with Ms. Marshall that such programs deserve the District’s backing — and ACE is definitely receiving my full support.
Karl A. Racine, Washington
The writer, a Democrat, is D.C. attorney general.