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Teenagers in Philadelphia’s Congested Juvenile Justice System Describe Inward Terror

Staff members spoke before City Council this month about overcrowding and understaffing in Philadelphia’s juvenile justice system (JJSC), which has left them rattled.

However, detention may be scary for children.

Quasir Easley was sent to the JJSC in September after making many out-of-character mistakes.

I seldom get into problems, but in those 20 hours, I don’t know what occurred.” I made a big mistake,” the youngster stated.

Crimes Kept Private Since He is Only 14

His father, Sam Easley, says his life before then is well-documented.

“Quasir has always been an honor-roll student,” Easley added. “I have all his prizes, including this year.”

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The child was enrolled in Community College of Philadelphia by Parkway School in Center City. Since being sent to the Juvenile Justice Services Center in West Philly, he lays on a mattress on the floor all day with no courses, exercise, or visitors.

In handcuffs, six youngsters assaulted him in a vehicle on the way back from court. He doesn’t know how they unchained themselves.

“There were four people behind me and one on each side, so I couldn’t see,” he stated. I had puffy black eyes. The right eye is closed. Bloodshot My ribs were bruised. “

JJSC Packed and Understaffed

Daquan Carter spent three months there, ending in February. He still has a scar on his face from a 20-year-old being detained there and punching him without provocation. The institution houses 10–20-year-olds.

He lost 20 pounds because other inmates stole his meals. He was hurt in a van accident on his way to family court. He alleged some kids threw soapy water beneath his door to slip him.


“Someone came in the shower and placed a knife in my neck,” Carter, 17, alleged. “I don’t know what he fashioned the knife out of, but he placed it on my neck.”

He stopped taking showers after that, according to his mother, Tanja Carter.

She answered, “We do therapy.” “I realise when you do a crime you receive a penalty, but he is totally traumatised by that facility.”

The city acknowledges various issues. They have sued the commonwealth for failing to take custody of children sent to state facilities.

In a statement attached to the claim, Gary Williams, deputy commissioner of the city’s Department of Human Services, which is in charge of the facility, said that it was in a “state of crisis.”

“Overcrowding and staffing concerns at the PJJSC have made it hazardous to relocate adolescents for meals, school, and programming,” he said. To prevent safety hazards, movement must be properly monitored and managed. The PJJSC is severely understaffed due to overcrowding. “

Overcrowding Started in January 2020

Williams said that the overcrowding started in January 2020, when the state started keeping adjudicated juveniles at the JJSC for longer periods of time.


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Since then, the number of teens in a building built for 184 has grown to around 220, including 68 who have been sent to a state institution.

He stated most of them had been waiting more than a month and none of their time in the JJSC contributed toward their punishment.

Williams says, “In today’s world, there are a lot more conflicts between people than there were when our population was lower.”

” These poor circumstances, combined with demoralising waiting times for children, are causing dissatisfaction that leads to increasing violent conflicts with workers and each other.

We’ve called the police twice since August 2022 to help our personnel break up huge conflicts.

Williams said that if the state seized the kids who should be in their care, situations would change “overnight.”

State institutions in Pennsylvania are overcrowded, too.

In an email, state DHS communications director Ali Fogarty stated, “The issue at hand is the requirement to maintain safe operations at our facilities.”

Courts may Release Kids from Secure Confinement

Advocates say juvenile court judges are sending more youngsters to prison instead of home or community options as they see younger offenders charged with more severe offences.

The Defender Association said, “Simply relocating young people who are waiting for placements, without addressing the underlying needs of the imprisoned population, would not solve the situation.”

The Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project’s Sarah Morris suggested it may make things worse.

Morris stated, “When you take young people and place them in institutions that are not providing for their needs, that are overcrowded, where they’re exposed to injury and trauma, it doesn’t make them less likely to commit violence when they go home.” It makes them more probable.

Children Housed at JJSC may Securely Return Home

Daquan Carter has gained the weight he lost at JJSC since returning home, but he still has difficulties sleeping.

He stated, “I still have a little bit of fear, but the longer I’m staying home, the more I’m getting accustomed to being around my family again. I eat continuously. I only need to adjust my sleeping habits. ” 
Easley’s misery continues.

He worriedly remarked, “The court wants to send me away to placement for six to nine months.”

Father Resists That

The judge isn’t at fault. Sam Easley stated, “I see what’s going on in this city.” I attempted to keep Quasir away from all that, but he made a mistake. He took responsibility for his actions. If anybody deserves a second chance, it’s Quasir. “

After he was arrested in August, Quasir went to CCP to study African culture and civilization. However, his father said that in September, the court took away his home placement.

His father remarked, “It just seems like a waste for him to be sitting on the floor and now being beaten up.” “Everyday I worry about him.”

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