PHILADELPHIA–“The Defender Association of Philadelphia applauds the Commonwealth Court ruling ordering the state to intervene to ease the overcrowding and mitigate the unhealthy and dangerous conditions at Philly’s Juvenile Justice Services Center (JJSC).
“For months, Defender’s leadership team and attorneys have been advocating—publicly, privately and every day in court—for a range of solutions that would address the overcrowding at the JJSC and ensure that these children received the care and supportive services they need. Although we’re waiting for the City and the Courts to reconvene our weekly meetings on JJSC, the Commonwealth’s suggestion that we haven’t been engaged in this conversation is factually inaccurate and insulting.
“To be sure, there are approaches we should be implementing to address the problem. Reexamining who should be detained; better use of existing technology (e.g. GPS monitors) and reporting centers; and working with local organizations to expand our pipeline of supportive services for children are all ideas we should explore on the local level. But this crisis also requires some intervention and a greater sense of collaboration from the Commonwealth. For example, just a slight, temporary adjustment to their staffing ratios (say, from 1:4 to 1:5) could go a long way to easing overcrowding at the JJSC.
“The JJSC is just the latest example of why simply warehousing young people is not an effective public safety tactic. In the short term, we’re straining city resources and putting children and staff at risk. In the long term, the family separation and life-threatening conditions of confinement are exposing our children to trauma that can last for a lifetime.”