(WASHINGTON) – In response to one of the deadliest outbreaks of violence in the District of Columbia in years, the American Federation of Government Employees, today, renewed its call to fix the city’s fractured Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) agency.
On Tuesday, March 30, slightly after dusk a crowd of neighbors became the victims of a drive-by shooting, injuring five and killing four. The wheelman of this heinous crime is allegedly a 14 year boy, who had nine previous convictions on charges including assault and theft. According to reports from the Washington Post, the juvenile had been placed in the custody of DYRS six times, escaping at least twice. In the same article, the Post reported that the boy had allegedly walked away from DYRS custody prior to the attack on March 30.
According to the union, this incident of callous violence is a symptom of the broken agency that is charged with supervising the growing juvenile offender population. “Under the previous DYRS Director Vincent Schiraldi, there was an attitude that these youths didn’t really need criminal-type supervision,” said Johnnie Walker, president AFGE Local 383, which represents DYRS employees. “All they needed was some gentle counseling. Unfortunately, the consequences for that inaction on behalf of the agency and the Mayor have been tragic.”
As the union that represents employees in DYRS, AFGE has been very vocal about the need to increase staffing levels and security measures within the agency. “Within DYRS, frustrated employees will tell you that the vast majority of experienced employees are still carrying case loads of 35-40 youthful offenders; making it near impossible to effectively manage an already troubled population,” said Walker.
“I have been working with juveniles for over 30 years,” said Walker. “My car has been shot, rocks thrown at it, car vandalized, physically threatened, but for the first time ever, I think long and hard before traveling on any street in D.C. after sunset. Because, I know that residents are not really safe.”
“In the face of swelling case loads and dearth of any real policy directives, the agency has become a revolving door of managers and frontline employees,” said Dwight Bowman, AFGE 14th district national vice-president, which represents D.C. government employees.
Walker will provide in-depth analysis of the issue this week on AFGE’s “Inside Government” radio show. Tune in Friday, April 2 at 10 a.m. on Federal News Radio (www.federalnewsradio.com or 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area) or listen on-demand at www.afge.org/insidegovernment.