Guest column: Support House Bill 1381 to bring reforms to the juvenile justice system

Anahi Figueroa-Martinez, Daily Times •
Anahi at Care Not Control pop-up

I have been a youth advocate for children in the justice system for eight years now. Pennsylvania has had so many different scandals and stories of abuse.

Back in 2019, the commonwealth formed a bipartisan task force to make recommendations for change, following The Philadelphia Inquirer’s reporting on sickening abuse for years at Glen Mills Schools in Delaware County. But five years later, that’s almost all they have done — make recommendations — through this report.

It’s long past time for change. Pennsylvania now has a chance to make things better with House Bill 1381.

The bill would keep young people out of placement and reduce the use of solitary confinement. Many may have heard about the horrible abuse at the Lima youth detention center in Delaware County. So many children are sent to facilities that are supposed to rehabilitate. But they receive no services, are harmed, and not helped.

Across the state, when youth enter the system, the system forgets about their mental health. It also places them in solitary confinement, which is evil.

Kids especially need connection to other people. Solitary confinement of kids causes an increase in suicide rates and deep psychological trauma.