(Photo by Julie Zeglen)
On Tuesday, the City of Philadelphia was awarded a $1 million grant to create a 24/7 trauma-informed facility that will be an entry point into the criminal justice system for children who are arrested.
The city was one of five winners out of 35 finalists in the yearlong Bloomberg Philanthropies U.S. Mayors Challenge.
The location and an official timeline for the opening of the facility — named the Hub for Juvenile Justice Services — are still being determined, said Julie Wertheimer, the senior director of criminal justice reform strategies and programs. When implemented, expected city partners will be the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD), the Office of Criminal Justice and the Department of Human Services.
According to a release, the hub will provide “immediate screening, custody determinations, and access to various social service agencies and diversion programs” via a centralized model. It was tested between February and August 2018 thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Bloomberg challenge. This period informed the city’s proposal and improved the idea overall, Wertheimer said.
Wertheimer said the PPD developed the idea because it wanted to “provide more services to our young people and also, where appropriate, offer more opportunities for diversion out of the system.” In 2017, about 2,200 arrested youth were held in cells for adults in police facilities with no screening for mental health or social service needs.
The city’s goal to reduce its jail population by 50 percent between 2015 and 2020, for which it received a $4 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation, is entirely focused on the adult system, Wertheimer said. But the city anticipates the hub will further this goal for younger people.
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“We know that historically there’s been what’s referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline,” Wertheimer said. “We believe that reducing system involvement and providing more support and services upfront when someone’s young … can address those issues that may cause them to come into contact with the criminal justice system.”-30-
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