Stoneleigh Fellow Rhonda McKitten spoke to the Philadelphia Citizen about developing a Juvenile Justice Hub for the City of Philadelphia, which just received $1 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies for the project.
For any of the 4,000 young people arrested in Philadelphia last year, the scenario went something like this: They were taken to the local police precinct, fingerprinted, put into a holding cell with other juveniles or sometimes adults, and made to wait with little communication—sometimes hours, while the police checked for outstanding warrants, contacted guardians and made decisions about whether to press charges…
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. And thanks to the brainstorm of a couple Philly cops and a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant, it may not be for much longer. Over the last year, the City—after receiving an initial $100,000 grant from Bloomberg—has been testing the idea of a Juvenile Justice Hub that would radically change the experience of young people picked up by the police. In addition to being designed with kids in mind, and staffed by officers trained in trauma and youth, the hub would also offer social service evaluations and send kids home with referrals. That could mean mental health help, after school programs, drug rehab or any of an assortment of services with one main goal: Getting kids the help they need before they become a more serious offender.
“The idea is a sea change in the way juvenile arrests are handled,” says Rhonda McKitten, a Stoneleigh Fellow working with the City and police department on planning the hub. “This started as a conversation about how can we reduce the time that young people are spending in custody, and the trauma that brings. Now, the partners—the Police Department, D.A., probation, social service organizations—are talking about how to not just make the arrest process better, but actually make it so that they don’t get arrest records at all.”