(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)
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.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.