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“This is the anti-prison.”
—Vincent Schiraldi, director of youth rehabilitation services, May 29
One of the few Williams administration holdovers to stay and thrive in the Fenty administration, Schiraldi tested his boss’ resolve in 2009. Already under fire from judges, prosecutors, and Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King for his less-than-totally hardassed approach to youth offenders, he saw what should have been a triumphant moment turn into a PR disaster. In May, Schiraldi shuttered the infamous Oak Hill Youth Center—-the prison-in-all-but-name that housed and abused generations of District youngsters—-and opened the New Beginnings Youth Center, a smaller, brighter, more open facility. And it was less secure, it turns out. The day after the place opened, and Schiraldi uttered the quote above, one of the youths hopped a fence and escaped from the $46 million facility. That led to much guffawing about his plans to secure the troubled kids with little more than prickly rose bushes. The incident didn’t totally derail Schiraldi’s tenure; Fenty stood by him, and Schiraldi will start managing the New York City prison department in January.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery