In 1981, Juvenile Law Center filed a civil rights class action lawsuit in federal court challenging Pennsylvania law and practices that governed the detention of youth charged with committing delinquent acts. Defendants included a statewide class of Pennsylvania juvenile court judges and juvenile probation officers. The lawsuit aimed to reduce unnecessary pre-trial incarceration of juveniles in Pennsylvania’s juvenile detention centers.
Juvenile Law Center and the defendants settled the case in 1986, entering into a 10-year settlement agreement that would limit the use of detention to serious cases and require judges and probation officers to explain the reasons for secure detention. The data collection forms that were used in the decade after the settlement are still required for all youth arrested in Pennsylvania (except in Philadelphia, which is governed by Santiago).