Pennsylvania youth are 29% more likely to endure incarceration in a juvenile facility than youth elsewhere. The Juvenile Law Center points out that the state lags behind other states in dealing effectively with juvenile confinement, often placing youth in facilities for non-criminal acts and technical violations.
Our firm defends juveniles as they face the challenges of the justice system.
Youth placement presents significant disadvantages
Juveniles placed in residential facilities experience worse long-term outcomes than others their age:
- Children’s development and maturation suffer when a court removes young people from their families and communities.
- Placement can cause youth to experience physical injury and mental trauma.
- Juvenile placement reinforces disparities that disadvantage young people of color, youth with disabilities and children in the LGBTQIA community.
Youth placement does not lower recidivism and may, in some cases, encourage repeat offenses.
Reforms may minimize youth placement
Researchers have proposed strategies to reform the juvenile system and reduce the placement of youth in juvenile facilities. One of the key suggestions is for policymakers to establish systems that demand fair treatment for all youth, regardless of race, disability, sexual orientation or economics. Changes to law should limit a court’s discretion to impose residential detention. In Pennsylvania, most placements into residential custody relate to technical probation violations.
Suggested reforms also emphasize encouraging community involvement. Youth and their families can share their experiences with the justice system to help inform policy changes. In addition, communities should identify and fill gaps in critical family services.
Experts also recommend keeping youth under age 18 in the juvenile justice system. The state may currently prosecute juveniles as adults even in instances where charges are minor. Please visit our website for information about handling juvenile criminal charges.