Horror Photos Show Children Sleeping on the Floor of Philly Juvenile Detention Center as Bathroom Access is Restricted and Lights Are Left on 24 Hours
Children are left to rot in an overcrowded city jail, forcing them to sleep on the floor and tolerate light 24 hours a day — while city and state officials arguing about who should take responsibility for them.
Staff are accused of encouraging fights at the Juvenile Justice Services Center in Philadelphia, where children are forced to sleep on floors and couches in dirty cells for months.
Shocking photos show more than 210 children locked up in a facility licensed to hold 184 children, while advocates say there is little access to bathrooms or showers.
Meanwhile, the state government is considering deploying the National Guard or placing some inmates on the grounds of the nearest maximum-security men’s prison as it struggles to find placements.
Gabby Jackson, of the city’s Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project, said 75 percent were there because of probation or house arrest violations.
“They feel like they’re treating them like they’re animals,” she added.
Overcrowding at the Juvenile Justice Services Center in Philadelphia forces many young inmates to sleep on the floor
Others provide a bench in the facility where they can be locked up for six months at a time
More than 210 children are locked up in a 184-child facility, where advocates say lights are on 24 hours a day and there is little access to bathrooms or showers.
Philadelphia released the photos of conditions at its own facility as it demands that a judge hold Pennsylvania in contempt of court for not accepting convicts into a state facility.
Some inmates have been stuck in the backlog at the center for six months, struggling to access school classes, family visits and programming.
Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler in July ordered the state to end overcrowding within 30 days as violence escalated following reports that some children were making improvised weapons.
But the state government said it had doubled the number between July and September, accusing the city government of ignoring alternatives to custody and blaming judges for sentences that “far exceed the traditional time frame for treatment.”
“The Department of Human Services has no control over residency or release timelines,” a state spokeswoman added.
Kendra Van de Water of YEAH Philly called on the court to consider alternatives to custody
“That decision rests solely with the juvenile courts.”
YEAH Philly youth worker Kendra Van de Water said the state had a point.
“There are so many services that the juvenile courts could use, and they purposely don’t,” she told the court. Philadelphia researcher.
Michael Sontchi of the Defender Association’s Children and Youth Justice Department said 20 inmates are awaiting placement from the city.
The youth center was built a decade ago to hold children between the ages of 10 and 17 while they await trial or await placement to serve their sentences.
The city has looked for alternatives to the private sector to alleviate overcrowding, but a facility in Texas is the only bidder.
Some young prisoners are desperate enough to request a transfer south in hopes of securing their freedom more quickly, according to Keisha Hudson of the Defender Association of Philadelphia.
“Our children are very frustrated because they sit in the middle 24 hours a day or lie on a mattress on the floor with the lights on,” she added.
‘That time doesn’t count.
“They ask their lawyers, ‘Please let me go because then I’ll be closer to coming home.’
The city of Philadelphia has admitted that conditions at its own facility are ‘indefensible’ as they tried to convince a judge to force more action from the state
“We do not take a particularly humane approach to the way we deal with children who come into contact with our justice system,” the centre’s chief legal officer said.
A state spokesperson said it has “made great progress” and expects to open a 60-bed facility, which could alleviate some of the overcrowding next month.
But the city hopes that releasing photos of the “indefensible” conditions at its facility will convince a judge to take decisive action.
“Those pictures speak a thousand words,” said Marsha Levick, the center’s chief legal officer.
‘We do not take a particularly humane approach to the way we deal with children who come into contact with our justice system.’