Youth, Mental Health Experts Address Crisis at Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center

Katy Otto,
child in a detention center cell


Youth, mental health experts address crisis at Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center

Speakers addressed the harms of poor conditions, lack of educational services, and of sending children far from home and community
PHILADELPHIA, PA (November 15, 2022) — In the wake of egregious conditions and harm to children at the Juvenile Justice Services Center, multiple advocacy organizations, youth and family members gathered today to raise concerns about the city’s response to children in the legal system. As of Monday, there was new reporting from the state on plans for the young people at the JJSC.

“It is unacceptable that children are being held in a facility where the conditions are this dangerous," said Bre Stoves, Care, Not Control youth organizer. "But there should not be this many children incarcerated in the first place. We need our leaders to invest in communities and alternatives rather than locking up more kids or sending them far away from their families.”

Young people, advocates and family members shared insights for policy makers toward healthier and safer pathways for youth and communities - solutions that do not involve sending them far from their families and loved ones.

“Our justice system needs to be much more comprehensive in its approach to our youth,” said Nicole El, Assistant Chief of the Defender Association of Philadelphia’s Children and Youth Justice Unit. “It’s time to re-think how and why we detain our young people, instead of allowing conditions to deteriorate to the point where we make decisions that will negatively impact our children’s future.”

Additionally, advocates critiqued the Pennsylvania state legislature for failing to enact meaningful reforms that were recommended by its own bipartisan Juvenile Justice Task Force.

“Last year the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force made recommendations to reduce the number of youth in detention and placement out of a recognition that too many youth are removed from their homes and communities,” said Juvenile Law Center Staff Attorney Malik Pickett. “Enacting those recommendations would help prevent crises like this from occurring in the future.”

Read more about the circumstances and crisis at the JJSC here and learn about Thursday’s court decision here.

View the conference livestream here (video will post after live event as well):

This press event is supported by a number of coalition partners, including Youth Empowerment for Advancement Hangout (YEAH Philly), Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project, Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project, The Defender Association of Philadelphia, Disability Rights Pennsylvania, The Village of Arts and Humanities, The Support Center for Child Advocates, Education Law Center, Juvenile Law Center, Advocates for Youth Justice, and Care, Not Control.


About the Expert

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.