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Left to rigth: Lauren Fine and Joanna Visser Adjoian, co-founders and co-directors of the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP)  Lauren Fine and Joanna Visser Adjoian, co-founders and co-directors of the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP)

“The story of youth incarceration in Pennsylvania is one of ineffective spending, racial discrimination, and unchecked abuse; of children being locked in adult jails; of life-altering trauma.” So starts the powerful list of demands developed by the Care, Not Control Coalition in response to Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice Task Force. As our country continues to reckon with its deep and omnipresent legacy of racism and White Supremacy, and Pennsylvania’s specific and tragic legacy of judicial and institutional abuse within the juvenile justice system, the call to reform a juvenile justice system that has perpetrated countless abuses on Black and Brown children is louder than ever.

The bipartisan task force includes representatives from Pennsylvania’s executive, agency, judicial and legislative offices, and is staffed by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Crime and Justice Institute; it seeks to “assess how the state handles juvenile justice, and to develop a report detailing what should be done to strengthen the system.” The task force was established in December 2019 with the intended goal of issuing recommendations by Nov. 30, 2020, but adjusted plans and timetables in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force has since held a series of virtual hearings and meetings and now plans to release its recommendations by late March 2021. These recommendations likely will guide statutory, budgetary and administrative actions in Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system for the foreseeable future.

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