Juvenile Law Center and Disability Rights Pennsylvania File Amicus Brief in Response to Conditions at Juvenile Justice Services Center

Katy Otto, Juvenile Law Center •

The advocacy organizations underlined egregious conditions children are facing

PHILADELPHIA, June 21, 2023 –Yesterday, Juvenile Law Center and Disability Rights Pennsylvania filed an amicus brief in the Philadelphia lawsuit against Pennsylvania State DHS in Commonwealth Court. The organizations filed on behalf of neither party, focusing the brief on the egregious conditions and harms youth in Philadelphia are facing in this facility. 

Previously advocates underscored the dangers at a press conference outside the JJSC. 

“The severe overcrowding of the PJJSC requires immediate action by all parties and stakeholders,” said Marsha Levick, Chief Legal Officer, Juvenile Law Center. “At approximately 30% or more over-capacity, with dozens of children sleeping on mattresses on floors in windowless rooms and spaces, it is inhumane, and it is violative of Pennsylvania statutory and regulatory law. Continuing to do nothing to relieve an increasingly dangerous situation is not an option. Both Philadelphia and Pennsylvania must drastically reduce their over-reliance on placement and confinement.” 

“Approximately 70% of youth in the PJJSC and the state Youth Development Centers have mental health and other disabilities that make them particularly vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and victimization,” said Rhonda Brownstein, Litigation Counsel, Disability Rights Pennsylvania.  "The city and state must work together to develop therapeutic alternatives to incarceration to help these young people thrive.” 

Both organizations highlight the state legislature’s failure to enact meaningful juvenile justice system reforms coming out of its own bipartisan task force as a driving factor in rising population in the JJSC. 

“Overcrowding at the PJJSC underscores the need for the commonsense recommendations of the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force,” said Malik Pickett, Staff Attorney, Juvenile Law Center. “Current legislation such as SB 752, and HB 1381 limit the youth that can be detained and will alleviate overcrowding.  We urge the Legislature to take swift action and move these pieces of legislation, along with the rest of the Task Force recommendations.”

Attorneys from Juvenile Law Center and Disability Rights Pennsylvania will hold a virtual press conference today at 12:00 pm to discuss this filing and answer questions from the media. 


WHO: Juvenile Law Center and Disability Rights Pennsylvania 

WHAT: Juvenile Law Center and Disability Rights Pennsylvania to hold a virtual press conference on filing of amicus brief in response to conditions at Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center 

WHEN: Wednesday, June 21st, 12:00-12:30 pm 



Meeting ID: 815 3759 7532 

Passcode: fM67jZ 

Juvenile Law Center fights for rights, dignity, equity, and opportunity for youth. We work to reduce the harm of the child welfare and justice systems, limit their reach, and ultimately abolish them so all young people can thrive. For more information about Juvenile Law Center’s work, visit www.JLC.org

Disability Rights Pennsylvania (DRP) is the statewide protection and advocacy agency for Pennsylvanians with disabilities.  DRP protects and advocates for the rights of people with disabilities so they may live the lives they choose, free from abuse, neglect, discrimination, and segregation.  For more information, visit www.disabilityrightspa.org]www.disabilityrightspa.org.

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.

Katy Otto joined Juvenile Law Center in 2016. With a background in communications, development and government relations, she is responsible for the organization’s overall messaging strategy and implementation. She is passionate about youth justice, and committed to ensuring that the public learns about the challenges facing youth in the child welfare and justice systems.

Malik Pickett is a staff attorney at Juvenile Law Center who joined the organization in 2020. He advocates for the rights of youth in the juvenile justice system through litigation, amicus and policy advocacy efforts. Prior to joining Juvenile Law Center, Pickett worked as an associate attorney with the law firm of Wade Clark Mulcahy, LLP where he litigated personal injury and construction defect cases and as a legislative counsel for the Honorable Pennsylvania State Senators Shirley M. Kitchen and Jay Costa.