City of Philadelphia And Juvenile Justice Services Center Play Blame Game Over Declining Juvenile Facility

The city, meanwhile, faces its own criticism from juvenile advocate groups, who say that Philadelphia could do more.

The City of Philadelphia has accused the Juvenile Justice Services Center in Philadelphia of a failure to address long-standing issues at the facility.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the city petitioned a judge to hold the facility in contempt as it produced photos showing children sleeping in crowded cells on the floor while also alleging that lights are on 24 hours a day and access to bathrooms and showers is limited. 

Philadelphia is also blaming the state for a failure to get custody of those individuals who have been sentenced to long-term state placement in a timely fashion. They allege that this practice has created a backlog, resulting in prolonged time served for juveniles. 

Meanwhile, the city faces its own criticism from juvenile advocate groups, who say that Philadelphia could do more. Advocates claim that the city could alleviate the problem by not locking up children for minor probation violations, using alternative detention programs, as well as working with child welfare agencies to bring down the number of children in custody. 

Marsha Levick, the chief legal officer of the Juvenile Law Center, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the stalemate between the city and state was indefensible.

Keisha Hudson, chief of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, said, “Our children are very frustrated because the time they are sitting in JJSC, or lying on a mattress on the floor with lights on 24 hours a day, none of that time counts.” Hudson said some children are asking to transfer to the Texas facility to be closer to home. 

Kendra Van de Water, the executive director of YEAH Philly, an organization that works with young people in Philadelphia’s criminal justice system, says that the actual problem lies with judges, who, despite their broad powers, fail to exercise them beneficially.

Van de Water told the Inquirer, “There are so many services that exist that the juvenile courts could be utilizing, and they purposely don’t.”

Levick says that the photos in the complaint against the facility underscore research that locking children up does nothing to increase public safety, telling the Inquirer,Those pictures speak a thousand words,” Levick said. “We do not take a particularly humane approach to how we deal with children who come into contact with our justice system.”