City Paper is not for tourists
On Jan. 7, Jumiya Crump, the subject of a recent Washington City Paper cover story on the plight of kids in the city’s child-welfare system, was arrested and charged with destruction of property.
The arrest—the day after the story appeared in the paper—is just the latest setback in the teenager’s two-year odyssey through the system.
Jumiya’s arrest started with a phone call at her group home from her mother. It is unclear what her mother said. What City Paper sources make clear is that immediately following the phone call, Jumiya vented her frustrations—punching several holes in the group home’s walls, breaking a glass and a mirror. Throughout the incident, she screamed about her mother.
After her arrest, she was transferred to the Youth Services Center, the city’s juvenile detention facility.
An administrator with the group home, located on 57th Street NE, says they didn’t want to press charges. “Since they took her away from here, we haven’t had any contact,” says Ovella Williams, the group home’s case manager. “She’s a nice young lady. She has great potential.”
According to case records, city officials didn’t see Jumiya as a great risk. Like all juvenile defendants, she was given assessment based on her charge, her family background, and mental-health history. She scored low enough, according to two sources familiar with her case, that she could have been released. “For this risk score and this level of offense, this is very strange for her to be held,” says a former official with the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS). “It definitely seems suspect.”
A current DYRS official blames the Office of the Attorney General, which prosecutes juvenile cases, for Jumiya’s circumstances. The official says city prosecutors are pressing forward with the case. “The OAG are assholes. This is what they do. It’s really about a win for them no matter what,” the official says. “It’s not about what the best need is for the kid. They try to build their careers on the backs of these kids. This is what they do. They will commit kids on very, very minor things.”
The OAG refused to comment on Jumiya’s case. But the District’s lawyers have the authority to bring charges against a juvenile if they think there’s sufficient proof. Other factors may also come into play—especially if prosecutors believe the juvenile is in need of care or rehabilitation.
So far, Jumiya’s treatment has meant an extended stay inside a District jail cell.
Jumiya, 17, became of a city ward in 2008 after police and city officials discovered bruises and burn marks on her body—allegedly from her mother. The D.C. Child and Family Services Agency placed her in a series of group homes. None of the placements worked as they failed to address Jumiya’s most basic traumas. She consistently ran away—always back to extended family or her boyfriend’s mother’s house.
By the time the City Paper story ran, Jumiya had already turned herself in to authorities. But District social workers had few fresh ideas on what to do with her. They ended up placing her in the Echelon group home on 57th Street—the same exact facility the city first put her when she came into custody in 2008.
She wasn’t put back in school for nearly a month, she says (she is in the 11th grade), nor did she regain access to a therapist or medications she had been taking.
Sometimes Jumiya stayed at the group home. Sometimes, she did not. If her placement wasn’t so stable, Jumiya had her own remedy. She wanted to save enough money so she could rent her own apartment. The night before her arrest, Jumiya had landed a part-time job at KFC.
With her arrest, Jumiya’s future remains just as cloudy as it was the day she came into care. At her first hearing, her social worker did not show up. Jumiya did spot two familiar, friendly faces in the gallery: her two aunts. “She does have [family] who is willing to take her in,” says a source familiar with Jumiya’s case.
Maybe the city should start listening to Jumiya this time. Her next hearing is Tuesday, Feb. 2 in D.C. Superior Court.