Defender Statement on Conditions at JJSC


PHILADELPHIA–“The Defender Association of Philadelphia shares the serious concerns of City Council and our community partners about the unsafe conditions in the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center (JJSC).

“Conditions at the JJSC, where our young people are held pending resolution of their cases, are unsafe for the youth, the counselors who supervise the young people housed there, and the medical staff, attorneys, educators, and other supportive professionals who enter the facility every day to serve the children in the facility. Insufficient staffing and overpopulation has limited the children’s access to medical care and educational services, and contributed to multiple reports of assaults among those being held there.

“But simply transporting young people who are waiting for placements, without addressing the underlying needs of the detained population, will not improve the situation. As the legal representatives of many of these children, the Defender recommends that we:

  • be more thoughtful about who is being sentenced to these placements – often located hours away from the young person’s home, school, and community;
  • be more judicious in the use of the detention center to house children with pending charges or other alleged infractions; 
  • make sure we’re making the best use of the alternatives to detention, like GPS monitoring and reporting centers that are available; and finally,
  • partner with community-based organizations here in Philadelphia to connect youth and their families with critically needed wraparound services.

“Many young people at the JJSC  have been detained for periods that are longer than  programs they would be sentenced to complete. They should be home, attending school, and receiving direct supports and services–not continuing to be exposed to ongoing traumas in an overcrowded and understaffed facility.”

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