In Council News, Jamie Gauthier, News by Jamie Gauthier

Trigger warning: this page contains references to sexual abuse, which some individuals may find distressing.

PHILADELPHIA – In response to more than 60 individuals filing lawsuits against Pennsylvania juvenile facilities, alleging sexual abuse ranging from groping to repeated rapes, Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) released the following statement:

“I am appalled to learn sixty-six individuals allege that they suffered sexual abuse and rape at the hands of Pennsylvania juvenile placement facilities staff. While we will wait for the courts to rule on this particular set of allegations, we must acknowledge that instances of horrific abuse in the commonwealth’s juvenile justice centers are neither rare nor surprising.

“In the last decade alone, five separate juvenile placement facilities closed due to documented instances of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and, in the case of Wordsworth Academy, the death of a young person at the hands of corrections staff.

“When these abuses came to light, a new day for juvenile justice seemed to be dawning. That day never came. Today, we still subject our children to overcrowding in our local detention facility, and, as these lawsuits allege, abuse at the hands of the state. We cannot hope to stop youth gun violence if the adults charged with rehabilitation instead model criminal behavior.

“If we are bold enough to act, we can end this cycle of abuse by:

  1. Reducing the flow of young people into the juvenile justice system by expanding pre-arrest diversion in the Juvenile Assessment Center and investing in community-based diversion options.

  2. Fully funding and utilizing diversion and alternatives to placement at every step of the process.

  3. Opening a mid-level placement in Philadelphia as an alternative to state placements, because we know that no one will care for our kids as much as we will care for our kids.

  4. Creating systems of transparency and accountability: expand DHS’s ability to collect and publicly share data to inform policy-making and program funding, and fully fund the Youth Ombuds Office and empower it to perform independent monitoring visits and investigations.

“I also call on the General Assembly to enact House Bill 1381, which contains essential juvenile justice reforms that will help to address many of the juvenile justice issues coming to light.”

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