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06/22/2024 07:40 PM
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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: March 14, 2022 01:25 PM
From: Senator Camera Bartolotta and Sen. Anthony H. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: The Evidence-Based Juvenile Justice Policy Act: Expand Diversion, Limit Detention & Tailor Out-of-Home Placement
In the near future, we will introduce legislation enacting many of the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force in an effort to improve outcomes for our youth and communities.
Research shows that most youth are not on the path to adult crime, and over-involvement in the juvenile justice system can increase their likelihood of reoffending. This legislation will reduce victimization and promote community safety by ensuring that young people who are struggling in our communities receive the right level of intervention at the right time, no matter where they live.
Research has shown that diversion from juvenile court – for low-level and first-time offenses – is significantly successful, but the Task Force found that despite its success, diversion is underutilized. Currently, there are no statewide requirements for which young people should be diverted. Whether a case is diverted largely depends on where a young person happens to live. In some counties, nearly all first-time cases are diverted, while in others, pre-court diversion is never used. This leads to disparity in which youth receive this successful intervention and which communities benefit from better outcomes in the long run.
Similarly, despite research showing out-of-home placement is largely ineffective for most youth, approximately 80% of Pennsylvania taxpayer spending on juvenile justice services is dedicated to it. Focusing costly out-of-home placement on our most serious cases will reduce unnecessary spending and free up fiscal resources for reinvestment into interventions within the community, which enhance public safety and put these young people back on track. More cost-effective options include family therapy, outpatient substance use and other programs that work with kids in their communities.
Specifically, our bill includes the following key components:
  • Expands and standardizes pre-petition diversion and clarifies the parameters of post-petition diversion to improve outcomes for youth and communities.
  • Limits admission to the juvenile detention facilities to older youth (14+), and those who have committed a more serious offense.
  • Reduces the length of time a young person can spend in detention and expands access to detention alternatives.
  • Reserves out-of-home placement for the most serious cases, while limiting the default length of stay in placement.
  • Adds parameters to restitution in juvenile cases and ensures youth receive at least minimum wage for work while in placement.
Please consider cosponsoring this legislation, which will improve outcomes for youth and families and ensure taxpayer dollars are used more effectively, while addressing victims’ needs and promoting long-term community safety through reduced recidivism.

Introduced as SB1241