Washington DC’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) launched a new initiative (first called the “Lead Entity and Service Coalition Initiative” and later “DC YouthLink”) to coordinate the efforts of the Department with community-based organizations providing services to court-involved youth. The goal of the initiative was to supervise youthful offenders in the least restrictive method consistent with public safety and to build the efforts of agencies around the principles later articulated in the 2010 report, Positive Youth Justice.
The DYRS was led at the time by executive director Vinny Schiraldi (who later became Probation Commissioner in New York City), and chief of staff Marc Schindler (who later became the director of the Justice Policy Institute). Along with research manager Barry Holman and other senior staff at DYRS, they set out to reform and redirect the agency and to build its efforts around a more consistent, developmentally informed approach. The DYRS leadership approached Jeffrey Butts, then at the Urban Institute, and suggested that he assemble the literature on positive youth development and conceptualize a new approach to youth justice. That effort resulted in the Positive Youth Justice model.
Since the departure of Schiraldi and Schindler from DYRS, the agency continued to build on its efforts to incorporate the lessons of the PYJ model. New directors, Neil Stanley in 2011 and Clinton Lacey in 2014, soon made DYRS into one of the nation’s leading agencies in the use of developmentally appropriate youth justice programs and services. The PYJ Model serves as the agency’s central organizing mechanism for overseeing the work of its community-based service delivery partners, and each year the agency publishes a performance report that highlights the positive accomplishments of DYRS clients.
PYJ in Practice
From the Washington Post, August 20, 2013:
Of the many theories out there for improving outcomes for troubled youth, the city’s juvenile justice system has been testing one in particular: Would young offenders who are given the skills and opportunity to perform paid work return to the streets? “Young people can change,” said Neil A. Stanley, director of the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. “They do best when they’re close to home, receiving locally based, rigorous supports and services.”