Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania’s legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle, along with justices and the state’s governor, came together recently to create a Juvenile Justice Task Force with help from the Pew Charitable Trusts. This task force would take a hard look at how young people are treated when they end up on the wrong side of the law.
The task force is hoping to take a look at how to help young people avoid turning to criminal behavior in the first place and, if they do, how to make sure that they come out of the criminal justice system with a chance for a better future.
Governor Tom Wolf joined legislative leaders and justices today to formalize a joint agreement with Pew Charitable Trusts on the creation of a Juvenile Justice Task Force to assess how the state handles juvenile justice, and to develop a report detailing what should be done to strengthen the system. Task force members will be appointed within 30 days and the report will be delivered by Nov. 30, 2020.
“The partnership we’re creating today is an important step toward protecting vulnerable young Pennsylvanians,” Gov. Wolf said. “With this task force, we can thoroughly review our juvenile justice system and find ways to make lasting change that ensures every young Pennsylvanian is getting the support needed to grow into a successful adult.”
Leaders of the General Assembly spoke in support of the formalized agreement. Rep. Bryan Cutler welcomed the expertise of Pew to work with the legislature and the governor’s administration on the creation of the task force with members appointed by both. Joining Gov. Wolf and Rep. Cutler were the Hon. Kim Berkeley Clark, the Hon. Douglas Reichley, Sen. Anthony Williams, Sen. Larry Farnese, Sen. Mike Regan, and Rep. Kristine Howard.
Pennsylvania has worked in a bipartisan manner to address smart, commonsense criminal justice reform, decreasing the prison population without increasing crime, and creating ways for formerly incarcerated individuals to succeed in their communities.
This partnership is another step toward smart reforms that will take a look at the youth who become involved in the criminal justice system and how we might help them to avoid involvement, and protect them through the process so that they come out of the system with the chance for a bright future. Gov. Tom Wolf commended the caucus for its bi-partisan commitment to a thorough review of the juvenile justice system and this new task force with Pew’s assistance.
According to Pew, the overarching goal of this new initiative is to develop data-driven policy recommendations through stakeholder consensus with the goals of protecting public safety, ensuring accountability, containing costs, and improving outcomes for youth, families, and communities.
Pennsylvania consistently demonstrates its commitment to achieving better juvenile justice outcomes across the three branches of government through entities such as the Juvenile Court Judges Commission, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and Gov. Wolf’s recent executive order to address vulnerable populations through various initiatives, including the recommendations of his Council on Reform.
Like those entities, the task force announced today represents a bipartisan effort to use data and research to build upon past successes and evaluate current challenges.
“My Council on Reform identified justice-involved youth as a vulnerable population and said that our juvenile justice system needed significant reform,” Gov. Wolf said. “But, to create the meaningful change we need our state systems, the courts and the General Assembly to work toward the same goal. This task force can help us do just that.”