Petworth used to have a convenient post office at 4211 9th Street NW. It was shut down a couple of years ago, and stories about what was to come in that place were circulating. At one time I had heard it was to be a senior services center, but now we know what’s coming to the space.
DC Courts is taking over the building, and according to a few ANC 4C commissioners I spoke to, the Courts didn’t inform anyone in the community about it, so it took some effort to find out.
There will be a juvenile probation center located in the building, serving youth and family involved in the juvenile justice system — most attending will be pre-adjudacted, meaning they haven’t been found guilty or innocent as yet.
Called the “Northwest Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) Drop-In Center,” it is to be “a multi-faceted facility built to house juvenile probation officers and support staff working with those residing in the Northwest quadrant of the city (i.e., Wards 1, 3 and 4),” according to an email sent on behalf of Terri Odom, the Family Court Social Services Division Director.
According to the email, the facility will operate Monday thru Saturday, from 8am - 8:30pm (Mondays thru Fridays), and 10am - 2:30pm (Saturdays) during the school year, and 8am – 9pm (Monday thru Thursdays) and 6:30pm - 11:30pm (Fridays and Saturdays) during the summer.
The email said there are five BARJ Drop-In Centers in DC, located in close proximity to the homes of the youth and families who need the services. The Court Social Services Division (CSSD) offers a variety of services for youth in the BARJ facilities including mentoring, tutoring, life skills, drug use/abuse prevention, anger management, mental health and substance abuse services. Each facility is designed to offer services in individual, team and group formats.
The office on 9th Street will also include an indoor basketball/volleyball court.
A Courts Government Relations Manager said in an email that BARJ staff will attend court hearings during the day, as well as make school visits and home visits, meet with youth and prepare for evening activities. The BARJ Centers also serve as alternatives for CSSD youth who have been suspended from school from three to fifteen days. For suspended youth, they arrive at 9:15am and are released at 3:15pm, are provided a light breakfast, lunch and tutors to work with them to complete course work provided by their respective schools. The Alternative Suspension Program allows youth to return to school and continue their education without having to make up course work.
During the evening, youth required by either court order or their probation officer attend the BARJ program from 4pm - 8:30pm. They participate in a restorative circle group and tutoring is provide by contract providers for an hour and a half. Both youth and staff prepare and eat their dinner together, and are then able to use the indoor basketball / volleyball court.
On Saturdays, BARJ youth are provided a brunch and educational venues on restorative justice and also complete community service.
During the summer, high-risk youth attend BARJ throughout the week with late hours on Friday and Saturday. A host of activities are coordinated for each week of the summer to reduce delinquency.
According to DC Courts, “MPD is a partner in the effort, and the CSSD coordinates a great deal of its work with the MPD. The CSSD also utilizes graduated responses to incentivize growth and development and also hold youth accountable.”
Hopefully, the facility will be a major benefit to students in the area who can continue to go to local schools while receiving support services from the city. However, it would have been better if DC Courts had reached out to someone in DC government or in the local community to clarify what the building was going to be used for, and how the community can assist. Without these recent inquiries, this facility would have opened up, seen a lot of youth traffic suddenly appearing on 9th Street NW, and no one would have known why or what it is. Better communication ensures better cooperation and support.
I hope DC Courts comes to ANC 4C in the near future to discuss the new facility and how the community can be involved.
I reached out to DC Courts to get information on number of staff assigned at the location, where they are going to park, and the number of youth they expect at the center, but have not heard back. Will update when if they contact me.