HARRISBURG, PA – Governor Tom Wolf, Justices from across Pennsylvania, and legislative leaders from the House and Senate jointly announced a new interbranch effort to strengthen Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system.
The newly formed Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force, receiving technical assistance from The Pew Charitable Trusts and CJI, will deliver data-driven policy recommendations to Pennsylvania leaders in a report by November 30, 2020. The recommendations will form the basis for statutory, budgetary, and administrative changes during the 2021-2022 legislative session with the goals of protecting public safety, ensuring accountability, achieving taxpayer savings and sustained system reinvestment, and improving outcomes for youth, families, and communities.
“While we have taken important strides to improve our juvenile justice system, there is more that needs to be done,” Governor Wolf said. “I am committed to continuing our efforts to ensure our youth have the best chances to succeed, and ultimately create safer and stronger communities.”
Pennsylvania has long been committed to achieving better juvenile justice outcomes across the three branches of government through entities such as the Juvenile Court Judges Commission and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Yet challenges remain, and Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of juvenile commitment in the nation. The Task Force announced today represents a bipartisan effort to use data and research to build upon past successes and evaluate current challenges.
“Participation in this task force provides an opportunity to assess the treatment of youth who come in contact with the criminal justice system and ultimately, to improve the lives of Pennsylvania youth and families.” Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Saylor said.
“I look forward to recommendations from this Task Force that right-size our juvenile justice system and use the best evidence available to ensure taxpayer investments are yielding the public safety results for our communities deserve,” Speaker of the House Mike Turzai said.
The members of the Task Force will represent a wide range of stakeholder groups that include legislators, law enforcement, judges, district attorneys, and public defenders; the three branches of state government will appoint members. Over the next year, the group will assess the state’s system and review data from court and state agencies, gather input from diverse stakeholders, and examine how current practices can better align with research about what works best to improve youth outcomes.
“This issue hits home from Pennsylvanians in all corners of our Commonwealth,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler added. “Ensuring our system rehabilitates our youngest offenders pays off not only in what they can achieve in their own lives, but what benefits they may be able to offer to their entire communities in the future.”
“Juvenile justice is an important issue to get right,” Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said, “I am honored to stand with Pennsylvania’s leaders to make sure we are putting our resources toward what we know works best to keep families strong and put youth back on a law-abiding path.”
“We must work together across party lines and across the branches of government to make sure Pennsylvania is doing all that it can for our young people,” Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa. “This Task Force will pursue a consensus-based, data-driven process to achieve our goal.”