After Glen Mills, legal center warns Pa.: Juvenile programs do more harm than good

Lisa Gartner, The Philadelphia Inquirer •

One of the organizations suing Pennsylvania officials over violence at the Glen Mills Schools will on Friday attempt to persuade state leaders to stop sending children to juvenile institutions like Glen Mills, saying these programs do more to harm youth than reform them.

The nonprofit, Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, a national power player in children’s advocacy, will release a report saying that Pennsylvania sends too many children to these facilities over minor, nonviolent offenses, and should set a minimum age for placement to even be considered for youth.

The report’s Nov. 1 release is not a coincidence: Three months ago, when Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order authorizing a council to probe the state’s oversight of these juvenile institutions and create a road map for improvements, he gave it the same deadline.

Jessica Feierman, senior managing director of Juvenile Law Center and one of its report’s five authors, said the group is hoping to influence the governor as he makes decisions surrounding these state-licensed facilities.

“The goal here would be to join forces," Feierman said. “We think reduction in youth placements can be dramatic, and needs to be dramatic. ... One of the real dangers of juvenile facilities is that young people are out of our sight and anything can happen to them."

About the Expert

Jessica Feierman oversees Juvenile Law Center’s projects and programs. Feierman currently leads a national effort to end fines and fees in the juvenile justice system and is engaged in litigation aimed at eliminating solitary confinement and other abusive practices in juvenile facilities.

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