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End Youth Incarceration in Pennsylvania
Sign the Petition for a Moratorium Today!

Thank you for helping us make a difference!

We, the undersigned, call on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to support and pass  legislation that seeks to impose a moratorium on the development of juvenile detention centers in Pennsylvania and establish a commission to research and produce alternative solutions to incarceration for youth.


The following findings and recommendations support the need for this bill:

  1. Youth are subject to physical, emotional, and psychological abuse at residential placement/detention facilities.

  2. Two residential detention centers in Pennsylvania were closed in the past two years due to the abuse and neglect of youth at the facilities.

  3. The bi-partisan Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force found that Pennsylvania has an over-reliance on residential placement/detention and recommended the Commonwealth to reinvest in nonresidential evidence-based practices and expand services as alternatives to arrest and court referral.

  4. Residential placement/detention is used in a racially disparate manner with Black and Brown youth being sent to residential placement/detention facilities more often than white youth.

  5. Admission to pre-adjudication detention can increase the likelihood of formal case processing and expose youth to negative peer influences.

  6. Pre-adjudication detention stays, regardless of the length, increase a youth’s likelihood of recidivism.

  7. Youth in residential placement/detention have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

  8. Youth in residential placement/detention lose access to educational opportunities and are more likely to disengage from school.

  9. Residential placement/detention has immediate, and long-term negative consequences on a youth’s employment and economic outcomes.

  10. Residential placement/detention disrupts youth psychosocial development.

  11. Youth in the juvenile justice system have higher rates of past exposure to violence, and residential placement/detention facilities amplify a youth’s trauma symptoms.

  12. Placing youth in residential placement/detention facilities is more expensive and less effective than community-based treatment options.

  13. A moratorium on building residential placement/detention facilities for youth would allow the Commonwealth time to implement the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force Recommendations which will reduce the amount of youth in the juvenile justice system and the amount of youth in residential placement/detention facilities.


Therefore, we urge the legislature to impose a moratorium on the development of juvenile detention centers in Pennsylvania for a period of three years and establish a commission to research and recommend evidence-based alternatives to juvenile detention. This will allow Pennsylvania to invest in community-based programs, diversion programs, and restorative justice approaches that prioritize the well-being and rehabilitation of youth, while reducing the harms associated with residential placement/detention. The commission should include representatives from relevant state agencies, juvenile defense attorneys, juvenile probation officers, community-based organizations that serve at-risk youth, advocacy organizations for youth and families, and formerly incarcerated young people, to ensure diverse perspectives are considered in the development of recommendations.


We urge our lawmakers to prioritize the safety and well-being of Pennsylvania's youth and invest in proven alternatives to incarceration. Together, we can create a more just and effective juvenile justice system in Pennsylvania.

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