University of the District of Columbia Law Review


In February 2020, the District of Columbia (“District” or “D.C.”) Juvenile Justice Advisory Group (“JJAG”), issued an important report calling for decriminalization of “status offenses.” Status offenses are alleged youthful wrongdoings that are prosecuted in the District as “Persons in Need of Supervision” cases.1 This Position Paper provides additional support for JJAG’s recommendations. It offers guidance and suggestions to help the District successfully transition away from PINS prosecutions—while also ensuring community youth feel safe, supported, and empowered in their own lives as they transition to adulthood. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has historically been the enforcement arm to address youth status offenses. However, status offense laws are vague and subject to a great deal of discretion. Allowing police to remain the primary point of engagement for youth in need is, therefore, problematic. The District has historically also disproportionately targeted youth of color, particularly Black male youth, for stops. These encounters can lead to negative perceptions of police among youth and influence how youth see themselves and their place in the community.2

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