Robert Hildum to leave D.C. juvenile justice department
Robert Hildum has announced that he will leave his post leading the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services at week's end, ending his five-month tenure atop the city's controversial juvenile justice agency.
"It is with a very heavy heart that I announce to you my decision to return to the Office of Attorney General (OAG)," he wrote in a memo to agency staff. "My last day will be Friday, December 17, and my successor should be announced soon. Several factors went into my decision, including making the best choice for my family. I am an attorney and I love the law and I look forward to continuing to serve the District through my work at OAG."
Hildum was put in charge of DYRS on an interim basis in July, weeks after a review ordered by Attorney General Peter Nickles and conducted by Hildum severely criticized the agency's reform-minded managers for lax supervision of the youths in its custody. DYRS wards have been perpetrators or victims of numerous violent crimes in recent years, and Hildum moved to keep more in secure custody rather than in community-based rehabilitation settings. That, however, has led to reports of overcrowding at the city's secure facilities.
"We all know how difficult a year this has been for the agency and its staff," he wrote in the memo. "The challenges were stress-filled as we had to manage through several tragic cases involving our youth, and now we face another leadership transition. Throughout it all, I've learned a lot from you and have appreciated your willingness to continue to perform your job at a high level -- yet under difficult circumstances."
In recent media interviews, Hildum said he'd like to keep his job running the agency, but his close ties to Nickles made it highly unlikely that Mayor-elect Vincent Gray would keep him in the post.
UPDATE, 11:20 A.M.: More from Post reporter Henri Cauvin, who covers DYRS:
[L]ast week, according to a source, he received a letter inviting him to apply for the permanent job -- a sign that he was unlikely to be Gray's choice to lead the agency, which has been wracked by turmoil over the last year.
As a prosecutor with little experience running a juvenile justice system, Hildum faced significant opposition from advocates who saw him as a threat to efforts over the last several years to reform the District's troubled long-troubled juvenile justice agency. But Hildum had supporters as well, who said he had brought a new focus to the agency and in particular to the dearth of community services for juvenile offenders.
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