Recommendations for the Juvenile Justice Task Force

Malik Pickett ,

As mentioned in our previous blog, we recently sent a letter to the Juvenile Justice Task Force Chairs containing recommendations for ensuring youth and community engagement. We created these recommendations based on over ten years of experience collaborating with young people in Juvenile Law Center’s Youth Advocacy program to lead policy reform efforts. These recommendations also grow out of our experience serving on the 2018 Philadelphia Youth Residential Placement Task Force and incorporate input from the Youth First Initiative and Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project (YASP). 

To accomplish meaningful reform, the Task Force will need to consider the wisdom of the youth members on the Task Force and youth in the broader community. Our recommendations aim to: (1) encourage adequate public participation in Task Force meetings; (2) support meaningful engagement of appointed youth members; and (3) ensure feedback and participation of youth statewide. 

To encourage public participation, we suggest creating an avenue through which the public can submit comments and questions to the Task Force. The Task Force should then designate time at each meeting to respond to those questions and comments. To create further engagement, agendas for upcoming meetings and minutes of previous meetings should be promptly uploaded to the Task Force website. 

In terms of youth member engagement, we recommend that the Task Force compensate appointed youth members for their time. Most Task Force members participate as part of their employment for an agency and thus receive compensation for their time. Youth members should be no different.  The Task Force should also designate a member to support the appointed youth members and ensure they are comfortable while participating in the process. 

For engagement of youth statewide, we recommend that the Task Force hold virtual round table meetings with youth representatives from different regions of the state so they can impart their wisdom to the Task Force members. These regional meetings are especially pivotal in the subgroup phase where the Task Force discusses discrete issues and develops policy recommendations. Live-streams and recordings of regional meetings should be uploaded to the Task Force website for those who cannot attend. 

Given the recent tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others, the future Task Force meetings provide an opportunity to discuss ways to address systemic racism, racial injustice, and unfair police practices in Pennsylvania. These issues are intrinsically tied to the juvenile justice system, and any meaningful juvenile justice reform must consider the current racial inequality in Pennsylvania. Many Pennsylvania youth are experiencing the stress and anguish caused by the murders of unarmed Black men and women, and the Task Force should create space so those youth can voice their perspective to the State and County actors who can help implement change. 

Finally, we recognize that the COVID-19 public health crisis has altered the Task Force’s ability to meet in person and appreciate the Task Force’s decision to hold meetings virtually. We have provided recommendations for maintaining youth and community engagement during virtual meetings. In addition to the live-stream, meetings should be recorded for individuals who are unable to watch live. If youth are providing virtual testimony or otherwise participating in a meeting, a point-person should be designated to ensure youth have the necessary technology to participate. We appreciate the launching of the Task Force website, and recommend adding, recordings of meetings, and all related documents to the Task Force website as soon as possible after the meetings. 

We hope the Task Force Chairs will consider implementing these recommendations and ensure that affected youth and communities participate in this process. Increasing public participation will allow the Task Force to create meaningful policy recommendations that improve outcomes for Pennsylvania youth involved with the juvenile justice system. 


About the Expert
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.