PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — A Commonwealth Court judge ordered the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to take 15 juveniles into custody because a West Philadelphia juvenile detention center was overcrowded.
The order was issued Thursday after the city of Philadelphia filed a lawsuit last month.
The city of Philadelphia asked a judge to force Pennsylvania’s DHS to take custody of more than 70 youths who were sentenced in court to state rehabilitation programs in hopes of alleviating allegedly dangerous overcrowding at the city’s holding facility.
In the lawsuit, city attorneys said the state refused to give priority to the transfer of the youths from the West Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Center.
The city says there were more than 220 juveniles at the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center (PJJSC) site in West Philadelphia, which has a maximum capacity of 184.
SEE ALSO: Philadelphia is suing the state of Pennsylvania over overcrowding at juvenile court center
The city asked the judge to order the state to take in the convicted juveniles within 20 days and either contract with a private or public entity or open a state facility to handle the increase in juveniles being sentenced in state centers .
In the lawsuit, city attorneys stated, among a list of issues, “Some youth are sleeping on mattresses on the floor of the reception area. Recently, juveniles from the PJJSC’s separate unit for the most serious crimes were able to overpower staff members, seriously injuring staff and other juveniles and damaging furniture and equipment.”
According to the judge’s Thursday order, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services must assume custody of 15 juveniles within 10 business days of Thursday’s order and transfer them to either a private facility in Texas or a state facility in Luzerne County.
Workers at Philadelphia’s youth facility spoke at a city council hearing last month about the deteriorating conditions at the center.
A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services declined to comment on the lawsuit. In a statement issued after last week’s city council hearing, officials at the ministry said the state’s facilities were also stretched.
“There is no denial of service – it is about the need to maintain safe operations at our facilities as well,” wrote department spokeswoman Ali Fogarty.
In a statement released to Action News on Thursday, the city says it will continue to provide full legal remedies:
“While we are grateful that this court order will bring some relief to the youth and staff of PJJSC, we will continue to pursue the full legal relief we originally sought,” said Vanessa Garret Harley, Deputy Mayor of the Office of Children and Families . “The City of Philadelphia will continue to evaluate all options to ensure the safety, health and well-being of the youth and staff of the PJJSC can be maintained.”
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https://6abc.com/philadelphia-lawsuit-overcrowded-detention-center-pa-department-of-human-services-west-philly/12440423/ Judge orders Pennsylvania DHS to take 15 juveniles from overcrowded West Philadelphia detention center