What to know about the crisis in Philly’s juvenile jail, and a judge’s latest order

Ellie Rushing, The Philadelphia Inquirer •
JJSC Campus by Allie Ippolito

Philadelphia’s juvenile jail has been in crisis for months, and now for the second time, a Commonwealth Court judge has ordered the state to take custody of children to try to alleviate the facility’s dangerously overcrowded conditions.

The judge’s order, filed Friday, requires the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to move 26 children out of the city detention center within the next month, and then work to bring the facility down to its licensed capacity within 30 days.

This is just the latest action in a nearly three-year clash between the city and state officials over the growing population and “nightmarish” conditions at the juvenile center.

Here’s what you should know:

What is Philadelphia’s juvenile jail?

The Juvenile Justice Services Center is a detention center in West Philadelphia that is licensed to hold 184 young people.

The youths held there are either waiting for their cases to be heard, or have been adjudicated delinquent — the juvenile equivalent of being convicted — and are waiting to be assigned placement at a state facility to serve out their sentences.

What were the conditions?

The center was regularly holding more than 50 children over its licensed capacity, according to a petition filed by the city last week. Recently, a record 246 kids were inside the facility, 75 of them adjudicated and awaiting state placement.

Unlike adults, juveniles do not get credit for time served at the city detention center. Some kids were waiting months for the placement, and the delays were sometimes doubling their time behind bars.

read the full story


photo by Allie Ippolito via The Philadelphia Inquirer

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.