We urge decision-makers to take the following critical first steps* in achieving this goal.
“I did come out of prison a different person — but I DID NOT come out a better person. I came out more angry, more physically and mentally unhealthy, and more lost than I had ever been.” – young adult formerly incarcerated as a child in adult prison
- Do not build or invest in building new juvenile correctional facilities (including placements or for detention), or separate facilities designed to house youth charged as adults.
- Do not reopen Glen Mills or Wordsworth Academy or any other facility that has been deemed unsafe to house young people.
- Never hold youth in prison-like settings.
- Establish and utilize alternatives to restrictive and prison-like settings for youth who have been deemed to need to be held.
- Until alternatives have been established, utilize the least restrictive and least prison-like settings when holding youth who have been deemed to need to be held.
- Establish, utilize, and sustain alternatives to incarceration in order to safely release and support all youth who are incarcerated in PA.
- Never detain for any period of time young people who meet the following criteria:
- are under the age of 14;
- are charged with a status offense, probation violation, misdemeanor, nonviolent offense, or non-payment of fines, fees or restitution;
- are pregnant or who are parents to children who were born in the past year.
- Only allow for a young person to be temporarily separated from their community if it is determined that (1) the young person’s behavior poses an immediate, specific and substantial risk of physical harm to another person and, (2) no condition or combination of conditions can provide for that young person to be safely returned to the community at the present moment. This determination cannot be made based solely on the type of case a young person is charged with.
“In the future we could work together to build the communities we deserve and create better options. We could fund schools, businesses, gardens, art.” — young adult formerly incarcerated in a juvenile carceral setting
- Invest in and expand the availability of restorative practices to all children with the intent to halt new admissions to the juvenile justice system and end the damage perpetrated by holding youth in carceral settings.
- Require financial savings from removing youth from detention and placement to be invested in evidence-based, community-based and anti-racist alternatives that focus on healing, restorative justice and violence prevention, and are not run/supervised by probation/law enforcement.
- Establish a statewide youth and family advisory group and support county-level advisory groups to ensure that these alternatives and budget allocations are vetted and supported by meaningful youth and family participation.6
- Create financial incentives for counties to create a state fund to help start evidence- and community-based, non-residential programs, and reallocate law enforcement funding to programming, essential needs and services in communities, especially in communities where there are high rates of poverty.
“Prison takes important parts of you that you can never get back—especially when you are young. It forces you to live with horrible things for the rest of your life—some things you’ve seen happen, and some things that have been done to you.” — young adult formerly incarcerated as a child in adult prison
- Amend state law to eliminate the practice of prosecuting youth under age 18 as adults, both through direct file prosecution and the certification/transfer process.7
- In the interim, direct counties to come into compliance with the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) and the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) by prohibiting the detention of children under 18 in adult jails or prisons for any reason.
“I survived because my mom always came to see me—But most people around me didn’t care about their life anymore. They didn’t have a home, outside of prison or in prison. Prison broke them apart from any community they had.” – young adult formerly incarcerated as a child in adult prison
- Develop, enforce, and publicly release a set of mandates for ensuring the health and wellbeing of youth held in any form of confinement that:
- Prohibit the use of solitary confinement, seclusion, exclusion or any type of isolation as a containment measure;
- Provide age-appropriate and accessible written and verbal communications to youth about COVID-19 or other highly infectious diseases, access to medical care, and community based supports;8
- Ensure access to meaningful, high-quality, anti-racist education with in-person teachers and age-appropriate, individualized opportunities to learn and grow;
- Ensure access to legal counsel through video and teleconferencing if in-person access is unavailable or unsafe due to COVID-19 safety precautions;
- Ensure access to family contacts and support networks by guaranteeing free unlimited phone calls and increased video conferencing opportunities for all youth in custody if in-person access is unavailable or unsafe due to COVID-19 safety precautions;
- Ensure all youth and their families and support systems have access to interpreters/translators; and
- Require any setting that holds youth to have community-based accountability mechanisms that ensure the design and implementation of programs are healing-centered, trauma-informed, youth-centered and rooted in restorative justice and anti-racist principles.
“Second chances happen inside our neighborhoods and communities. If those places are also suffering from poverty and violence, the cycle will never stop.” — young adult formerly incarcerated as a child in adult prison
- Eliminate incarceration as an option for violations of probation.
- Eliminate all court fines and fees.
- If it is determined through a restorative process that a young person should repair a financial harm through restitution, ensure that any payment plan is directly related to a young person’s access to financial resources and ability to pay
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, place a moratorium on all probation-ordered programs, community service and labor.
“When I was locked up, I felt isolated, alone and hopeless. It was only because I connected with community organizations that I survived the system and was able to come home and succeed.” — young adult, formerly incarcerated in a juvenile carceral setting
- When youth are released from custody, create a comprehensive individualized transition plan to ensure that:
- They have a place to live;
- They have immediate access to Medicaid, adequate medical and behavioral healthcare, and at least a 30-day supply of any prescribed medications;
- They are enrolled in or connected to age-appropriate, anti-racist and culturally appropriate education opportunities;
- They are connected to appropriate community-based programming;
- They have access to therapeutic support;
- They have access to technological devices (phones, computers, laptops) to ensure they can communicate consistently with family members or support network members; and
- Youth are not handcuffed or shackled during transport.
“My child has asthma. If he dies from COVID at CFCF, is the mayor going to give me a tweet to say he’s sorry? I won’t even have the chance to say goodbye.” — mother of a currently incarcerated child
- Because of COVID-19, require each juvenile court, and adult criminal court with jurisdiction over youth who were charged and/or sentenced as adults, to review all youth currently held in detention or placement and release them unless there is a judicial determination made that the young person should be temporarily separated from their community if it is determined that (1) the young person’s behavior poses an immediate, specific and substantial risk of physical harm to another person and, (2) no condition or combination of conditions can provide for that young person to be safely returned to the community at the present moment. This determination cannot be made based solely on the type of case a young person is charged with.