Officials at the Campaign for Youth Justice are reveling in the success of a recent book drive that benefited youth locked up at the city jail. Accompanied by a holiday party Dec. 2 at the Busboys & Poets restaurant in Northwest Washington, the drive helped make the situation better for many among the nearly 50 youth currently housed at the Central Treatment Facility, located adjacent to the jail.
“It was a wonderful event,” said Campaign spokesman Eric Solomon, who noted that three of the incarcerated youth read poetry, and that as a group, there was plenty of talk centered on the holiday season. “We raised enough money to purchase at least four books per child at the adult jail, and we’re looking to get a set of books for them to discuss as one of the Free Minds book club projects.”
Solomon explained that his organization is working with the Free Minds project because of its weekly presence at the jail. He said, however, that the Campaign’s mission is to keep wayward youth out of the adult jail population.
“We’ve made some ground— they have been housed at the jail with the adults—by getting them moved next door to the Correctional Treatment Facility where the spacing is a little bit better,” he said. “But they are still being supervised by the D.C. Department of Corrections.”
Youth housed at the treatment facility have been charged or sentenced as adults. As of last year, they had been moved from the jail where, although separated from adults, they still do not have access to the same programs and services that youth held in the juvenile detention facility or the Youth Services Centers receive.
“We feel that kids of the adult jail are not getting what they need, so we’re continuing to push to get them under the direction the Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Services,” Solomon said.
The Campaign is a national organization dedicated to eradicating the practice of trying, sentencing and locking up youth offenders in the adult criminal justice system.
In a report that addresses loopholes that allow youth to be housed in adult facilities, Campaign Executive Director Liz Ryan said federal law exists against the measure. But Ryan said too many youth are still falling through the cracks, and that while incarcerating youth in adult settings fails to reduce crime, it also disproportionately impacts youth of color.
“We want Congress to close the loophole, and make sure every young person is treated the same,” Ryan stated in the report. “No youth under 18 should end up in an adult jail before they’ve even had a trial—it’s bad for youth and doesn’t protect communities.”