Juvenile Justice is messy in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Back in February 2019, Glen Mills School was the target of child abuse uncovered by a Philadelphia Inquirer article. Now we find the Delco Juvenile Justice Center is alleged to be going through the same mess. This time, it’s the Public Defender who is blowing the whistle. 

I have to go back and check my notes, but as recall, the Delco Public Defender is new and hasn’t been on the job a year yet. He brought his crew in to speak to Chester folks on Monday, November 9 and I interviewed them on Friday November 13. It was his way of introducing himself to the communities who are most likely to be assigned the services of his staff the most. 

This weekend we learned that the Delaware County Public Defender sent a letter warning the county of what it said were credible and horrific claims of physical, psychological and sexual abuse at the Delco Juvenile Justice Center. They say the letter was sent around on Friday and County President Judge Kevin Kelly ordered all children housed at the Lima center to be transferred immediately. 

Although this situation is still being sorted out, it’s following the same story line as Glen Mills. Somehow, the people who are supposed to be looking out for the kids in custody are not doing a good job. 

I’m sure the Public Defender isn’t the only person who comes in contact with the juvenile holding facility. In fact, I don’t even think the public defender’s office provides any oversight to the facility. More importantly, the new Public Defender is so new, and the allegations are so old, I wonder how the old Public Defender missed an opportunity to write a letter. 

I’m that guy who has expressed on many occasions how I hate seeing kids get charged as adults. I understand that some crimes give prosecutors the option to charge a kid as an adult, but if a juvenile commits a crime of any magnitude, I believe the juvenile justice system should be equipped to address it until it’s determined in court that it’s best dealt with in the adult system. 

But, what we’re learning here in Delco, is kids serving time in juvenile custody are facing horrendous conditions and criminal behavior by the adults in charge. And from today’s article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, some children are being held in detention for reasons like truancy, missing curfew while on probation, or even being a shooting victim. 

I’m learning more everyday why so many young black men have no trust in local government. If they miss school, they’re thrown in juvy jail. If they stay out too late while on probation, they’re thrown in juvy jail. If they get shot, they can be thrown in juvy jail. Help me understand how any of those occurrences qualify for jail time. Sure, the first two cases deserve punishment, but not jail time. And if I’m shot, why in the world am I going to jail?

The more these stories surface, the more angry I get knowing how adults take advantage of their adult status to abuse and silence children. At least in adult jail, inmates have a better chance to express themselves, defend themselves, and will likely have a much larger network of people to reach out to. These poor kids are on their own. 

I’m so disgusted right now.