A community leader in one of D.C.’s more violent neighborhoods is suing the Department of Justice over the city’s apparent “revolving door” for repeat criminal offenders, which leaves murderers and rapists on the streets.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Denise Krepp of the District’s Ward 6, is demanding answers after having Freedom of Information Request Acts (FOIA) repeatedly ignored by the DOJ. Krepp is trying to get statistics on how many arrests in the District resulted in officials following through with prosecutions. Residents in Krepp’s community feel the D.C. court system is a “revolving door of justice,” where repeat offenders are released back into neighborhoods, allowing violence to go unchecked, reports NBC Washington.
Much of the problem stems from the city’s Youth Rehabilitation Act, legislation implemented in the 1980s to provide leniency to criminal offenders under the age of 22, even violent ones — murder convictions are an exception.
Authorities, for example, arrested 21-year-old Antwon Durrell Pitt for a brutal home invasion and rape October 13, after the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) lost track of his whereabouts.
Pitt, whose record includes a robbery conviction and eight arrests over four years, benefited twice from the Youth Rehabilitation Act before the October rape. Authorities released Pitt from prison last summer but lost track of him after he cut off his ankle monitor. The CSOSA waited 15 days to issue an arrest warrant after Pitt went missing, which critics point to as an example of the D.C. criminal justice system’s broader incompetence, reports The Washington Post.
“Sometimes, we just scratch our heads,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told The Washington Post. “We feel like there’s a revolving door for violent offenders. It’s very frustrating for us because we see the victim, and we see the impact on the victim.”
There have been at least 3,600 similar cases of repeat offenders who were granted leniency through the Youth Rehabilitation Act but involved in additional violent crimes since 2007. One-in-four juveniles arrested in the District will be arrested again in the future, according to the D.C. Attorney General.
In another case, authorities arrested 17-year-old Maurice Bellamy in March for the murder of a 15-year-old on Deanwood Metro station’s platform. Later, Bellamy was charged in the murder of Secret Agent Arthur Baldwin in December. Courts Social Services Division (CSS) was monitoring Bellamy, who was serving probation for assault, but lost track of him, reports WUSA9.
Krepp is asking the DOJ why this cyclical violence is not addressed and hopes prosecution statistics provide a partial glimpse at where D.C.’s criminal justice system is failing. Washington saw a 53 percent spike in the murder rate in 2015, the highest rate in the District in eight years. The alarming spike in homicides in the District appears to be spilling into 2016, with over 39 murders already — a five percent increase over the 2015 rate.
The Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) currently oversees the city’s most violent juvenile offenders, operating with an annual budget of $106 million. Critics of DYRS and the D.C. criminal justice system say the current process of sending juvenile offenders back to their communities and families is failing everyone.
“The flaw, the fatal flaw of course, was that there was no real bridge to the community and no investment in the family, or very little investment in the family, in the neighborhood where the young person is returning,” Clinton Lacey, director of the DYRS told WUSA9.
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