1,000 signatures reached
To: Judge Fox + First Judicial District leadership, Judge Murphy + Family Court leadership, Mayor Kenney, District Attorney Krasner
#FreeOurYouth in Philly now!
Act now to release all Philadelphia youth from incarceration during the COVID19 crisis!
1. Halt new admissions of youth to juvenile detention and correctional facilities and implement an immediate and thorough review process to release all youth in detention to caretakers or guardians:
- Begin process with any youth showing symptoms of COVID-19; chronic illnesses, such as asthma or diabetes; other serious illnesses; or are in need of medical care
- Release all youth awaiting trial or awaiting transfer to placement from juvenile detention facilities and adult jails
- Grant early release for all youth in placement facilities
- Lift all probation detainers + bench warrants
- End the use of cash bail for youth
- Withdraw all prosecution during the COVID-19 crisis
2. While youth are awaiting release:
- Prohibit the use of solitary confinement, seclusion, exclusion or any type of isolation as a containment measure;
- Provide youth-friendly and language accessible written and verbal communications to youth about COVID-19, access to medical care, and community based supports;
- Ensure continued access to education;
- Ensure confidential access to legal counsel through video conferencing;
- Ensure access to family contacts and support networks by guaranteeing free unlimited phone calls and increased video conferencing opportunities for all youth.
When youth are released from custody:
- Create a comprehensive individualized transition plans to ensure that youth have a place to live; their basic needs are met; and they receive immediate and adequate medical care, immediate access to Medicaid, and connection to appropriate community-based programming.
- During transport, ensure consistent communication with family members or support network members; ensure that those responsible for transport comply with all CDC and other Health Department guidelines concerning transportation; and refrain from handcuffing or shackling youth during transport.
For youth on probation, suspend all probation requirements and penalties, and specifically:
- Eliminate incarceration as a consequence for technical violations of probation;
- Replace GPS monitors with regular phone check-ins
- Allow youth to travel and access medical care, stay isolated when necessary, and take care of themselves and their loved ones;
- Eliminate requirements for in-person meetings with their probation officers;
- Place a moratorium on all requirements to attend and pay for court and probation- ordered programs, community service and labor.
End the assessment and collection of all fines and fees in the juvenile legal system due to the unnecessary financial strain this puts on youth and families, now and in this crisis.
Why is this important?
As states across the country take steps to stop the spread of COVID-19--closing schools, canceling events, and shifting to supporting children in their homes and communities--one group of young people is being left behind: the nearly 50,000 youth in custody in the United States.
It took staff killing a youth to close down Wordsworth Academy, and decades of child abuse to lead to an investigative news piece that would close down Glen Mills. Institutional violence persists toward Philadelphia children in detention across the state, and a growing consensus prevails, including in Philadelphia, that we do not want any children in cages. Yet, amidst an unprecedented global pandemic, minimal numbers of youth have been released from the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center. Over 100 youth still sit in this building, many pre-trial or on technical probation violations. Many more Philly youth are stuck in placement facilities across the state, many of them beyond discharge dates that have come and gone. And 19 children are locked in the city’s adult jails on State Road, all detained pretrial with no court date in sight.
Mass release has been done in less urgent times. As YASP organizer Will Bentley reminds us, we send children to adult jail before we allow them to vote. We call on First Judicial District and Family Court leadership - Judges Fox, Tucker, Dugan, Murphy, Gordon, Cooperman, Rebstock, Irvine, and Hearing Officer Wahl - District Attorney Krasner; and Mayor Kenney - to act now to save the lives of the most vulnerable children of this city and allow them to come home to their families, which is smart on public safety and public health.
We also demand that the upwards of $400/day that is spent to house youth in JJSC - which opened the same year that dozens of Philadelphia Public Schools closed - as well as funds used to hold young people in adult jails and juvenile placements, be redirected to public schools, community organizations, and job programs that serve our youth.
How it will be delivered
We will email the signatures to our targets.