RELEASE: Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner Announces Juvenile Justice Reforms

Philadelphia DAO
Feb 6, 2019 · 3 min read

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Ben Waxman, 215–686–8711, benjamin.waxman@phila.gov

PHILADELPHIA (Feb. 6, 2019) — Today, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced a series of new juvenile justice policies designed to reform the system and create more effective outcomes for youth and their families, streamline processes, reduce costs, and ensure public safety.

“By almost every measure, juvenile crime is down in Pennsylvania, but children who have been labeled as delinquent for relatively minor offenses are often trapped in a system that doesn’t offer them the help they need, so they are sent away from their homes,” said Larry Krasner, Philadelphia District Attorney. “These policies return our juvenile system to its true purpose: rehabilitation of youth, which turns children’s lives around and makes us all safer.”

Over the last ten months Juvenile Unit Assistant District Attorneys (ADA) and policy experts in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO), community partners, and experts from across the nation have worked to better understand our juvenile system and create policies that will not only make the system more efficient and cost effective, but develop and support the growth of our youth. Over the last month, ADAs in the DAO’s Juvenile Unit have been trained on and have begun applying the seven new juvenile justice policies in court.

“Jailing young people must be the last resort. Today’s announcement by DA Krasner is a critical step in ending the school-to-prison pipeline by forcing us to recognize that we cannot just arrest our way out of our problems,” said Councilmember Helen Gym (At-Large). “Residential placements for youth are expensive, ineffective, and most importantly can jeopardize the safety and well-being of our children. Today’s announcement aligns closely with the work of the Youth Placement Task Force that was formed in June. City agencies, the District Attorney’s office, and our non-profit partners have all come together with the goal of bringing our young people back home.”

The vast majority of children in the juvenile system have not committed serious violent crimes, so these policies seek to address those who have committed misdemeanor or lesser felony offenses and those who are sent to placement or are supervised. Seventy-two percent of children who are sent to juvenile placement are sent there because they are not complying with their probation and not because they have committed another crime.

“We applaud the District Attorney’s commitment to both shrinking the footprint of Philadelphia’s juvenile justice system by keeping our youth closer to home and in their communities, and to focusing on the educational and treatment needs of our youth who become involved in that system. The newly announced policies exemplify a rational and effective response to youth offending, backed by research, tested by experience, and economically sound. We look forward to a strong partnership across all city agencies that will benefit our youth and also keep our communities safe,” said Marsha Levick, Chief Legal Officer, Juvenile Law Center.

Instead of caring for and educating our most vulnerable youth, the current system punishes them by refusing to let go of them even when they pose no threat. In the latest study, conducted in 2013, only 36 percent of Philadelphia children who passed through the juvenile justice system graduated from high school. A child in a Philadelphia public school costs the government $14,627 per year. The average cost of juvenile placement per year in Pennsylvania is $150,000 and the cost of secure confinement is as much as $200,000.

The seven policies cover Pre-Adjudicatory Offers, Reporting Consent Decrees, Detentions, Dispositions, Review Hearings, Use of Solitary Confinement, and Bench Warrants. ADAs can depart from the policies if there is good cause to do so with supervisory approval.

Read the policies in full here.

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The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives and support staff. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecution of over 75,000 criminal cases annually.

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The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is committed to seeking fair and equal justice for 1.5 million residents, while upholding Constitutional rights.

The Justice Wire

News from the Philadelphia DAO media center

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