As the District’s chief prosecutor for crimes committed by juveniles, AG Racine works to make the city safer through smart prosecution and innovative, evidence-informed initiatives. OAG’s public safety efforts aim to stop violence before it happens and address the root causes of crime to prevent justice-involved young people from reoffending. In July, AG Racine issued this statement on the need for the District to have a comprehensive strategy to address violent crime.
Since taking office in 2015, AG Racine has worked to protect our community and rehabilitate young people who come into contact with the justice system by vigorously prosecuting violent crime, strengthening collaboration with the Metropolitan Police Department, addressing trauma and the root causes of crime, empowering victims and holding young offenders accountable through restorative justice, and partnering with neighboring jurisdictions.
Since taking office in 2015, AG Racine has worked to protect our community and rehabilitate young people who come into contact with the justice system by:
- Vigorously prosecuting violent crime: Reducing crime and increasing public safety are the top priorities for OAG. For years, OAG has had a policy to prosecute all gun cases, all violent cases with guns, and all gun possession cases. In FY2021, OAG filed prosecution petitions in 74% of cases presented to the office that involved a gun. If OAG does not prosecute a gun case, it is because it can’t – meaning there is not enough evidence to prosecute or because there was a constitutional violation in the case. OAG assesses every case individually and makes decisions based on the evidence, the needs of victims and the community, and the background (including any previous justice involvement) and needs of a young offender. Prosecutors are guided by questions including: “Does the evidence support a formal charge?” “What are the risks to public safety?” and “How can we ensure this young person is rehabilitated and does not go on to reoffend?”
- Strengthening collaboration with MPD: In 2020, OAG recognized the agency could play a role in improving the evidence brought to us by police officers, so OAG set up a 24 hour/7 day-a-week hotline run by prosecution supervisors to advise police officers at the scene of a juvenile crime about, in part, what kinds of evidence they need to collect and record to bring us the strongest case possible. That hotline has been incredibly effective at improving the quality of evidence being brought to OAG, and assisting police officers in making decisions informed by the law as they do their jobs every day.
- Addressing trauma and root causes of crime: To make it less likely youth will reoffend and increase public safety, when a youth comes into contact with the justice system, OAG works to put them on the right path instead of pulling them deeper into the justice system. To do that, the team assesses the factors that may have led a youth to violate the law and connects them with services that address those underlying issues. The office has significantly increased the number of young offenders it diverts to treatment programs, including the District’s Alternatives to the Court Experience (ACE) program. Through ACE, offending children identified as low risk to the community are provided personalized services to address trauma that include behavioral health support, mentoring and tutoring, and family and individual therapy. Close to 75% of the participants who complete the program are not arrested again. 88% of the participants who complete the program show improved scores on a behavioral and mental health assessment tool they take upon entering and leaving the program.
- Empowering victims and holding young offenders accountable through restorative justice: In 2017, OAG launched the nation’s first restorative justice program within a prosecutor’s office. Restorative justice is an alternative to traditional prosecution that uses a form of mediation to hold offenders accountable, empower victims, and repair harms caused by crime. Successful mediations end with written agreements detailing a resolution, which often includes an apology to the victim, restitution, or community service, among other terms. Since 2017, the program has held more than 150 mediations and a preliminary analysis shows that youth who participated in restorative justice are 15% less likely to reoffend than youth who go through the traditional juvenile justice system.
- Partnering with neighboring jurisdictions: In January 2021, OAG began developing the Multi-Jurisdictional Crime Task Force in partnership with the States Attorneys in Prince George’s County and we hope to expand to other neighboring jurisdictions soon to respond to an increase in crimes committed by young people across multiple jurisdictions. When a youth commits a crime that spans multiple jurisdictions, the task force meets to discuss each crime in detail, then agrees upon a path forward to address public safety concerns in both communities and ensures that the youth is held accountable while receiving the services necessary for rehabilitation.