Judge orders state to take custody of 26 Philly teens held in the city’s dangerously overcrowded juvenile jail

Ellie Rushing & Ximena Conde, The Philadelphia Inquirer •
Main entrance of the JJSC

What you should know:

  • A Commonwealth Court judge has given Pennsylvania officials 30 days to take custody of 26 young people living at Philadelphia’s juvenile jail to alleviate severe overcrowding.


  • The facility, meant to house 184 young people, was holding upward of 230. Children were sleeping on the floor and living in unsafe conditions, the city said. The state said its facilities were also at or near capacity.


  • The judge also ordered the state to work to get the city facility's population to capacity within the next two months.


A Commonwealth Court judge has ordered Pennsylvania officials to take custody of 26 young people living at Philadelphia’s juvenile jail to alleviate what the city has described as dangerously overcrowded conditions — but one youth advocacy group called the judge’s instructions a “disappointment” that will only “stop the bleeding” temporarily.

The 26 young people are among 75 currently housed at the Juvenile Justice Services Center in West Philadelphia who’d been adjudicated delinquent — the juvenile equivalent of being convicted — but were awaiting placement at a state Youth Development Center to serve out their sentences. Some children have been at the city facility for months awaiting placement, and because they don’t get credit for that time served, the delays can sometimes double their time incarcerated.

The order, issued Friday afternoon by Judge Ellen Ceisler, requires the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to find placement for 26 children within 30 days. After that, if the city’s juvenile jail remains over its 184-youth capacity, the state must “accept as many youths as possible into its treatment facilities” within another 30 days until the city’s facility is at capacity.


About the Expert

Marsha Levick co-founded Juvenile Law Center in 1975. Throughout her legal career, Levick has been an advocate for children’s and women's rights and is a nationally recognized expert in juvenile law.