Philadelphia’s Overcrowded Juvenile Justice Services Center Is Mayhem For Teenagers
The center is overcrowded and unable to take in anymore youth.
by Evie B.
November 01, 2022 at 8:42 pm
The Juvenile justice system is not doing right by the youth, and teens are telling their horror stories about what is happening inside the overcrowded JJSC.
One teenager shared a terrifying moment where he was stabbed in the neck with a knife by another juvenile inmate.
Its chaos and turmoil in Philadelphia’s juvenile justice system, and staff members are taking a stand. Earlier this month, they testified before City Council to discuss the lack of employees and overcrowding in the center. As a result, people are constantly being hurt, which is straight-up mayhem.
These teenagers’ experience is terrifying and obstructive, which doesn’t work to their advantage.
After making poor choices one day in September, Quasir Easley was taken to JJSC, and both he and his father told KYW these actions were unlike him.
“I never really get into trouble, but in that 20 hours, I don’t know what happened. I just made a bad mistake,” Quasir said.
His father, Sam Easley, shared that Quasir has always been an honor-roll student, since the third grade, up until now and everything is well documented. The details of his offenses remain undisclosed due to the fact that he is only 14 years old.
“Quasir has always been an honor-roll student, from third grade to now,” Easley said. “I have all of it, all his awards, [including] from this year,” he added.
Before being ordered to the Juvenile Justice Service Center in West Philadelphia, the child attended class at Community College of Philadelphia via the Parkway School in Center City. He is now sitting in a room all day with no visits, no classes, no exercise, and nothing but a mattress on the floor.
Quasir discussed a disturbing attack on his way back from a court appearance. While riding in a van in handcuffs, he was assaulted by six other juveniles and still doesn’t know how they all removed their handcuffs.
“There were four people behind me and one person on each side of me, so I couldn’t see,” he explained. “Both my eyes were black and swollen. My right eye was shut. It’s still bloodshot. I had bruises on my ribs and stuff,” added the teen.
This is a huge dilemma that has been building for years at the overcrowded JJSC.
Daquan Carter is another teen who is 17 years old, and was ordered to the center for a period of three months, which he completed in February. He is still dealing with trauma after being punched by another 20-year-old who was in detention as well. He was hit without provocation and ended up hitting a metal table which left a scar on his face.
While there, he lost 20 pounds because other detainees would take his food and leave him with nothing. He also shares some of his experience in JJSC where soapy water was placed under his door to make him slip, and in addition, he was injured in a van accident on the way to a family court hearing. His life was in danger.
“Once, I got in the shower, somebody came in there and put a knife to my neck. I don’t know what he made the knife out of, but he put it to my neck,” he shared.
His mother, Tanja Carter affirmed that he is still dealing with emotional scars and said that after the knife incident, her son stopped taking showers.
“We do therapy, and it was not court-stipulated,” she noted. “It’s because – I know when you commit a crime, you are to get a punishment – but he is absolutely traumatized by that experience in that facility.”
The Commonwealth is to blame and has been sued by city officials due to these issues and their lack of care for taking custody of the youth ordered to a state facility.
Gary Williams, the deputy commissioner of the city’s Department of Human Services, says this is a “state of crisis.”
“Overcrowding and staffing issues at the PJJSC have made it unsafe to move youth for meals, school, and programming,” he said. “Movement must be carefully monitored and coordinated to avoid safety issues. As a direct result of the overcrowding, the PJJSC is currently dangerously understaffed.”
According to Williams, the overcrowding began in January 2020, when adjudicated teenagers were obligated to JJSC for longer terms. In a facility created to accommodate 184, there is 220 youth, including 68 teenagers ordered to a state facility. He shared that most of the teenagers have been waiting over a month, and none of their time in the center count toward their sentence.
“Daily life for a resident in current conditions means far more fights than when our census was lower,” shared Williams.
He also said that the deteriorating conditions, along with demoralizing waiting periods for the youth, are why they become impatient and frustrated with each other and the center’s employees. This leads to altercations and confrontations that have led to authorities being called on for help when fights become too large for them to handle.
Williams also feels that if the state took custody of the youth they are supposed to take in, conditions would improve immediately. However, Pennsylvania officials claim their facilities are packed as well.