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06/23/2024 04:19 PM
Pennsylvania State Senate
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=S&SPick=20230&cosponId=38159
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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: December 2, 2022 03:31 PM
From: Senator Lisa Baker and Sen. Steven J. Santarsiero, Sen. Jay Costa
To: All Senate members
Subject: Juvenile Justice Task Force Report Recommendations 2, 5, 16, 23
 
Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice Task Force, comprised of distinguished experts and advocates from across the state, issued its key findings following a comprehensive assessment to examine how current practices can better align with research about what works to improve youth outcomes. Building upon this effort, we are once again introducing a package of legislation to address recommendations 2, 5, 16 and 23 of the Juvenile Justice Task Force Report.  These measures represent significant and worthy changes to our current system.

One component of our proposal will fix a substantial flaw in juvenile records. When someone who was involved in the juvenile justice system turns 21, their records do not automatically disappear. This is true for individuals who complete their supervision and for those whose cases are dismissed or withdrawn. Most cases are not expunged. For example, three-quarters of the dismissed or withdrawn cases remain accessible. 
 
This poses a considerable barrier for juveniles seeking to get their lives back on track. With background checks so prevalent today, juvenile records can negatively affect employment, education, housing, credit, and identification down the road.
 
In recent years, we have approved Second Chance legislation for adult offenders. It is inconsistent and self-defeating to allow juvenile mistakes to follow individuals through life and severely restrict their opportunities.
 
Key changes include:
  • Standardizing the expungement process
  • Shortening the timeline for expungement eligibility in certain cases
  • Setting a state reimbursement rate for county juvenile defense expenses
  • Authorizing state payments to counties providing alternative services for juveniles​
 
One of the major reforms enacted following widespread corruption in Luzerne County was to ensure that juveniles had legal representation. Railroading kids into placement was a prominent tactic in the Kids-for-Cash scandal.  Despite the clear intention, experience has shown that disputes regarding paying for counsel for indigent juveniles are proving a contentious and complicating factor.  To ensure fairness and prevent future abuses, it is imperative that juveniles have capable representation.  This measure will make sure a specified funding system redeems this promise.
 
In addition, legislation will make clear that The Juvenile Court Judges Commission will be responsible for ensuring that the juvenile probation offices have the technology and tools in place to inform the court when expungement eligibility occurs. This will address the gaps in communication that currently prevent consideration of expungement for too many cases.
 
A key premise of reform is to limit the time for which youths are kept in out-of-home placements. We propose that disposition review hearings will be held every three months, rather than the nine-month intervals contained in existing law. The review hearings will determine whether progress is consistent with the placement plan.
 
We hope you will join us in working to improve outcomes for youth, families, and communities across the Commonwealth.



Document #1

Introduced as SB167

Description: JJTF Recommendation 2 - Amends the Human Service Code to include both juvenile justice and child welfare funding goals (formerly SB 1227) 
 

Document #2

Introduced as SB168

Description: JJTF Recommendation 5 - Amends the Human Service Code to provide funding for indigent juvenile defense services (formerly SB 1229)
 

Document #3

Introduced as SB169

Description: JJTF Recommendation 16 - Keeping youth in out-of-home placement no longer than the timeframe supported by research (formerly SB 1228)
 

Document #4

Introduced as SB170

Description: JJTF Recommendation 23 - Creating a standardized statewide expungement process (formerly SB 1226)