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Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. Photo: AL DÍA Archives
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. Photo: AL DÍA Archives

Gov. Wolf announces creation of new Juvenile Justice Task Force

The task force will assess how the state handles juvenile justice and develop a report detailing paths to strengthen the system. 

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On Monday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the commonwealth’s next step towards addressing youth justice with the creation of a new task force.

The Juvenile Justice Task Force will be a partnership between Pew Charitable Trusts and legislators that will look to assess how the state handles juvenile justice, and develop a report detailing what should be done to strengthen the system.

“The partnership we’re creating today is an important step toward protecting vulnerable young Pennsylvanians,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement. “With this task force, we can thoroughly review our juvenile justice system and find ways to make lasting change that ensures every young Pennsylvanian is getting the support needed to grow into a successful adult.”

Task force members will be appointed within 30 days and the report will be delivered by Nov. 30, 2020. 

Gov. Wolf said the partnership “will take a look at the youth who become involved in the criminal justice system and how we might help them to avoid involvement, and protect them through the process so that they come out of the system with the chance for a bright future.”

Since 1975, Juvenile Law Center, the nation’s oldest non-profit, public interest law firm for children, has led the way in helping substantially shape the development of law and policy on behalf of youth in the U.S. through litigation, appellate advocacy, public education, training, consulting and more.

Jessica Feierman, senior managing director at Juvenile Law Center, said she hopes the new task force will help further create opportunities for transformative change in Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, nearly 53,000 youth are held in facilities away from home as a result of juvenile or criminal justice involvement. Nearly one in ten is held in an adult jail or prison. 

These are just two of many alarming statistics that highlight the dire need to address juvenile justice in the U.S. 

“We need a system that prioritizes serving young people in their homes and communities, not incarcerating them – and we need a system that ensures equitable treatment of all youth,” said Feierman. “We urge the Governor to ensure meaningful participation of young people with experience in the justice system and their families in the Task Force.”  

According to Pew, the overarching goal of this new initiative is to develop data-driven policy recommendations through stakeholder consensus with the goals of protecting public safety, ensuring accountability, containing costs, and improving outcomes for youth, families, and communities. 

The task force will serve as the commonwealth’s latest approach towards addressing juvenile justice, with entities such as the Juvenile Court Judges Commission, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and a recent executive order to address vulnerable populations. 

“My Council on Reform identified justice-involved youth as a vulnerable population and said that our juvenile justice system needed significant reform,” Gov. Wolf said. “But, to create the meaningful change we need our state systems, the courts and the General Assembly to work toward the same goal. This task force can help us do just that.”

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