Mayor Bowser’s Crime Bill Would Increase Youth Pretrial Detention Despite New Evidence of Effective Alternatives

A new report found that alternative-to-incarceration programs are more effective than detention for youth who commit serious offenses. Mayor Bowser’s new crime bill would increase youth pretrial detention, despite this evidence.

The Des Staff
The Des Staff

This article was written with the assistance of AI. It was edited by a real person to ensure accuracy.

Mayor Bowser’s new crime bill, proposed this month, would likely increase youth pretrial detention. The bill would make it easier for judges to detain youth who are accused of certain crimes, including gun offenses and violent crimes. 

A new report from The Sentencing Project adds depth to Bowsers new crime bill and its focus on youth detention. The Washington based criminal justice think tank found that six alternative-to-incarceration program models effectively reduce recidivism and improve public safety for youth who have committed serious offenses.

The report, “Effective Alternatives to Youth Incarceration: What Works With Youth Who Pose Serious Risks to Public Safety,” found that these programs are more effective than incarceration in preventing youth from re-offending, and they also cost less.

“The evidence is clear that incarceration is a failed strategy for reversing delinquent behavior, damages young people’s futures, and disproportionately harms youth of color,” Richard Mendel, Senior Research Fellow at The Sentencing Project and author of the report, said in the press release. 

“The evidence is clear that incarceration is a failed strategy for reversing delinquent behavior, damages young people’s futures, and disproportionately harms youth of color."

The six program models identified in the report are:

  • Credible messenger mentoring programs: These programs use former offenders to mentor current offenders, providing them with guidance and support.
  • Advocate/mentor programs: These programs pair youth with an advocate who provides them with support and guidance, as well as connecting them with resources in the community.
  • Family-focused, multidimensional therapy models: These programs provide therapy to youth and their families, addressing the underlying issues that may be contributing to the youth’s behavior.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: This type of therapy helps youth to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors.
  • Restorative justice interventions: These interventions focus on repairing the harm that has been caused by the youth’s offense, rather than punishing them.
  • Wraparound programs: These programs provide a comprehensive range of services to youth, including therapy, education, and job training.

These programs are effective in reducing recidivism rates for youth who have committed serious offenses. A study of a credible messenger mentoring program in New York City found that 77% of participants did not get arrested in the year after enrolling in the program.

The report also found that these programs are more cost-effective than incarceration. For example, a study of a cognitive behavioral therapy program in Baltimore found that the program saved the state $1.5 million for every $1 million spent on the program. It recommends that state and local governments expand funding for these programs.

Critics of Bowser’s bill, which focuses on youth detention instead of these alternatives, say it would disproportionately impact youth of color and would do more harm than good. They argue that pretrial detention is harmful to youth, as it can lead to further trauma, educational disruption and mental health problems. Supporters of the bill argue that pretrial detention can help to prevent youth from re-offending and can protect the public from dangerous criminals. 

The bill is currently being reviewed by the D.C. Council. It is unclear whether the bill will be passed into law. To read The Sentencing Project’s report, click here.


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