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D.C. wants to teach juvenile delinquents Yoga or Tai-Chi
Posted on Thu, Jan 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm
by IDMA Editor

The District's troubled juvenile justice agency is looking for a yoga teacher, or maybe a tai-chi instructor, to work with some of the city's most dangerous youths.

Photo from dailymail.co.uk

The idea for the new Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services programming comes from interim deputy director Barry Holman. Late last month, Holman e-mailed the agency's staff to see if they have "hidden talents that might be tapped to further our work with the young people in our care." In the e-mail obtained by The Washington Examiner, Holman said his primary interest was in finding among the staff an instructor certified in yoga, tai-chi, or another "mind-body connection discipline."

The agency is coming off a controversial year during which more than a dozen of its wards were charged with murder and at least a half-dozen were killed. A heavy focus on rehabilitation programs for city youths was blamed by critics for the soaring violence. Under political pressure, former Mayor Adrian Fenty fired then DYRS interim director Marc Schindler six months after he replaced Vincent Schiraldi.

Fenty appointed Robert Hildum, who came to the agency with a reputation as a tough, law-and-order type.

But Hildum resigned last month in the face of uncertainty as the city transitioned to Mayor Vince Gray's administration. Fenty, as a lame duck, appointed Neil Stanley as the fourth DYRS director in 12 months. Agency insiders believe Stanley will straddle the line between rehabilitation and keeping the city's wayward youth locked up.

Holman told The Examiner that he's received several responses since sending out the Dec. 29 e-mail, but none from anyone who can teach the "mind-body" techniques he described. He said he hoped the e-mail would begin a conversation with staff members to think broadly about programs that "might be of interest to them and the youth."

"It was an exercise on my part to see what other qualities, besides the professional qualities, that they can bring to the job," Holman said.

Among the responses he did get: a race car driver who suggested the youth build a race car, musicians and a certified boxing instructor.

Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham questioned if turning to yoga was the best approach given the problems the youth face. This week marks Graham's first as the chairman of the council's human services committee, which has oversight over DYRS. "Anything that would contribute to well-being I am in favor of," Graham said Tuesday. "But I'm much more concerned about having programs that address alcohol and substance abuse that will help turn these kids' lives around."

In his e-mail, Holman suggested hiring someone from the "outside" for the "mind-body" programming, but he told The Examiner his plans are still in the early stages and he hasn't committed any resources. "We're always looking at expanding our offerings," he said. "The benefits of yoga or tai-chi are no different for youth in a correction facility than for anyone else."



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