Pennsylvania is a flagship state on juvenile justice and was the first state chosen to participate in the Models for Change initiative for its favorable reform climate, strong public-private partnerships, demonstrated success in reforms and considerable consensus on juvenile justice.
A strong partnership between Models for Change and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Comittee (JJDPC), Pennsylvania's State Advisory Group, focused on the key issues of: strengthening the system of aftercare services and supports, reducing disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system, and improving the coordination of the mental health and juvenile justice systems.
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Select reform innovations
Reducing detention of minority youth in Berks County through screening and diversion
To reduce high detention rates that affected minorities disproportionately, the Berks County instituted a Detention Assessment Instrument, a more structured and objective approach to detention decision making. In addition, a new evening reporting center (ERC) was established in a neighborhood where many justice-involved youth live. Berks County reduced detention 60 percent from 2007 to 2011. This meant that, on average, 16 fewer Latino and 5 fewer African American youth were in detention on any given day. Read more about reducing racial and ethnic disparities in Pennsylvania.
Screening youth for mental health needs
More than a third of Pennsylvania counties have adopted the MAYSI-2, to flag youth with possible behavioral health problems at probation intake. The MAYSI-2 pilot project is a part of the implementation of the Mental Health/Juvenile Justice (MH/JJ) Joint Policy Statement that was produced in September 2006 from representatives of the state’s juvenile justice, mental health, child welfare, drug and alcohol, and education systems, formally committing the state to improving the coordination between the mental health and juvenile justice systems by 2010. Read more about Pennsylvania's collaborative apporach to juvenile justice and mental health.
Establishing an inter-county collaboration to improve educational and career technical training opportunities in residential facilities and to improve the reintegration of youth returning home
The Pennsylvania Academic and Career/Technical Training (PACTT) Alliance started as an innovative inter-county collaboration sponsored by the Pennsylvania Council of Chief Juvenile Probation Officers to improve the academic and career and technical training that delinquent youth receive while in residential placement, and in their home communities upon return. PACTT has helped facilities integrate their academic and career technical education tracks in order to re-engage youth and help them develop educational plans that meet industry standards and can lead to good jobs. Given the initial success of PACTT, the state Department of Public Welfare decided to adopt the initiative to provide long term sustainability, and opportunities for additional growth. Read more about how PACTT helps delinquent youths gain academic and job skills.
In June 2010, the Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania Council of Chief Juvenile Probation Officers and Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission (JCJC) committed to sustaining and enhancing the reforms accomplished during the Pennsylvania Models for Change initiative. The “Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy” (JJSES) was developed to consolidate the gains of the previous five years and to deepen and expand reforms. Pennsylvania’s JJSES rests on two interlinked foundations: the best empirical research available in the field of juvenile justice and a set of core beliefs about how to put this research into practice. Read more about JJSES here.
Pennsylvania Models for Change work was coordinated by Juvenile Law Center, a Philadelphia-based public interest law firm that has been advancing the rights and well-being of children in jeopardy since 1975.
To learn more about Models for Change work in Pennsylvania, or how to support juvenile justice reform work in the state, contact Autumn Dickman at (215) 625-0551 or Adickman@jlc.org.