District of Columbia Youth Center
Client: DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services
Size: 60 beds
Use: Juvenile Detention Facility
Michael McMillen, AIA
Currently JSG Justice Design Director
The District of Columbia Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services is responsible for providing services to committed youth from the District. During the 1990s, delinquent offenders were sentenced to the Oak Hill Youth Center, a secure residential campus for 180 youth. This outdated, overcrowded facility became the target of litigation seeking t improve unsuitable conditions. In response, DYRS entered a consent decree requiring extensive facility and program improvements.
In 2005, seeking even more far-reaching system enhancement, the DYRS management team pursued the development of a new residential campus to replace Oak Hill. This new facility is planned for a smaller capacity of 60 committed youth, with the remaining population diverted to more appropriate community-base services.
The new residential campus is designed to support advanced daily programs and treatment services, including academic and vocation education, family counseling, and both intramural and competitive sports. A small theater is provided to permit musical and theater arts programs as well as special presentations involving both youth and families. A large gymnasium accommodates daily physical education, sports with outside teams, and family participation in recreational activities with residents. Football and baseball fields are also available for competition with visiting teams.
Housing cottage contain single bedrooms, group living and activity spaces, galley and laundry areas, and outdoor courtyard for small group use. Cottages are arranged around a central outdoor space further defined by the Student Activities Center and Gym buildings. This outdoor space allows a range of activities, including resident circulation, basketball and other recreation, family visiting, outdoor dining, and school activities. Planting beds for the horticulture program are also provided. Continuing resident access to outside spaces is considered a high priority to foster normalization and diminish perceived institutional character To encourage regular use, central outdoor areas are easily supervised by staff in administration, education and other student areas. Open lawn, ornamental trees and large existing trees contribute to a more natural environment.
The District of Columbia Youth Center design incorporates many sustainable design features, notably graywater waste management, extensive natural ventilation, low VOC emissive materials, and the proposed installation of greenroof and photovoltaic (solar energy) fields in designed areas.