University of the District of Columbia Law Review


Susan M. Johlie


Judges sitting on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia routinely order children into secure detention who require no more restrictive confinement than that provided by shelter care. Despite a statutory presumption against detention, and a superior court rule that prohibits substituting secure detention for shelter care,' the District inappropriately places children into secure detention simply because there is a lack of bed space in youth shelter houses. The deprivation of liberty that occurs when a juvenile is placed in secure detention rather than shelter care is required neither for the protection of the community nor for the welfare of the child. Moreover, in light of Supreme Court precedent, the use of secure detention as an expedient administrative alternative to shelter care placement violates the detained youth's Fifth Amendment due process liberty interests.' Finally, the Jerry M. v. District of Columbia" consent decree grants District of Columbia children a liberty interest which mandates additional protection.

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