June 5, 2019, Roxanne Patel Shepelavy - The Citizen
The Citizen's Executive Editor Roxanne Patel Shepelavy reports on how Philly won $1 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies for a Juvenile Justice Hub proposed by city cops. Could it become a national model of reform?
For any of the 4,000 young people arrested in Philadelphia last year, the scenario went something like this: They were taken to the local police precinct, fingerprinted, put into a holding cell with other juveniles or sometimes adults, and made to wait with little communication—sometimes hours, while the police checked for outstanding warrants, contacted guardians and made decisions about whether to press charges.
Half the time, the youth were released with no charges and no record—but also no follow up, and no intervention to ensure they didn’t just end up back in police custody again. Instead, they could add the trauma of their arrest, and their encounter with the cops, to the list of issues that may be already plaguing them: Poverty, violence in their neighborhoods—and the fear that goes along with it—parents who work long hours, rec centers that have short ones, and a path that seems to lead inexorably into the criminal justice system.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. And thanks to the brainstorm of a couple Philly cops and a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant, it may not be for much longer. Over the last year, the City—after receiving an initial $100,000 grant from Bloomberg—has been testing the idea of a Juvenile Justice Hub that would radically change the experience of young people picked up by the police. In addition to being designed with kids in mind, and staffed by officers trained in trauma and youth, the hub would also offer social service evaluations and send kids home with referrals. That could mean mental health help, after school programs, drug rehab or any of an assortment of services with one main goal: Getting kids the help they need before they become a more serious offender.