Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser ousted the director of the city’s youth rehabilitation services agency, asking the longtime juvenile justice advocate to step down at a time when violence among children and teenagers is a chief concern in the city, reports the Washington Post,.Hilary Cairns said she does not know why the Bowser administration asked her to resign. The move upset some juvenile justice advocates, who said they had been impressed with Cairns’s work. “The bottom line is, my resignation was requested and I complied,” Cairns said. “I have no insight into what the reason is.” Bowser said, “I think we need some new leadership at the agency, and I won’t say more about that,” she said.
In a Monday oversight hearing for the agency, which is tasked with supervision and custody of young people charged with crimes, some advocates and experts raised concerns about Cairns’s dismissal. “We are incredibly shocked and disappointed to learn last week that she would no longer serve as DYRS director, especially given that there does not appear to be a good plan behind or reason for such a decision,” said Eduardo Ferrer, a Georgetown University visiting law professor and policy director of the school’s Juvenile Justice Initiative. Deadly violence among youth has increased in Washington. Eighteen children and teenagers were victims of homicide in 2022, and more than 80 youths were shot and injured. That same year, more than 380 children and teenagers were arrested for committing violent crimes, an increase from the year prior. In the first six weeks of this year, two 13-year-olds were killed in the District. Bowser appointed Cairns in July 2021, noting her experience in the city’s Department of Human Services, where she launched a diversion program and a series of prevention and intervention initiatives focused on decreasing violence among youth.