When New York City-based writer and activist Mr. Shaun King visited Philadelphia last month, he was astonished at the proximity of the city’s top prosecutor and the chief public defender.
Generally arch enemies, Mr. King noted, the two were together at City Hall, along with over a hundred observers, on the last day of July for a panel event on criminal justice reform.
Before and since that day, Mr. Larry Krasner, who was elected in November, and Mrs. Keir Bradford-Grey, who’s relatively new to the Philadelphia Defenders Association, have themselves, or their offices, co-existed in spaces in an effort to reform the criminal justice system.
For example, The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Defenders Association are among the contributors to a proposal for a 24/7, trauma-informed integrated service center which would provide juveniles immediate and long-term access to social services and diversion programs through a centralized, non-police facility.
The Hub for Juvenile Justice Services proposal – which was created by two members of the Philadelphia Police Department, Lt. Stephen Clark and Sgt. John Ross – would create a national model for how children are treated at point of entry to the justice system, according to a communication from the Office of the Mayor.
Today, the City of Philadelphia submitted its final application to the 2018 Bloomberg “Mayors Challenge” in hopes of receiving grant funding for the aforementioned effort.
In February 2018, Philadelphia was named one of 35 finalist cities (more than 300 cities initially submitted ideas in 2017), leading to today’s final application. Those cities were awarded $100,000 each to test and refine the ideas.
Ultimately, one city will be selected for a grand prize of $5 million and four other cities will receive $1 million each to implement their ideas. The final winners are expected to be announced in October.
“For youth who enter the juvenile justice system, the Hub will provide a safe, trauma-informed environment where children and families can get information about, and access to, support services. In short, the Hub gives us the opportunity to divert more youth out of the juvenile criminal justice system, and send them back to thriving communities with stronger support systems,” Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement.
Mr. King, who co-founded a PAC to elect reform-minded prosecutors, said the entire nation is using Philadelphia as a model for achieving social justice. The city, he said, is in the early days of finding brilliant ways to get insiders and outsiders collaborating.
“Don’t mess it up,” he joked.
The Hub for Juvenile Justice Systems proposal is a truly collaborative effort, with partners ranging from Ms. Rhonda McKitten, a Stoneleigh Fellow currently serving as a Youth Policy and Training Specialist in the Police Department, to Family Court and the Managing Director’s Office.
“Should Philadelphia be fortunate enough to secure funding for the Juvenile Justice Hub, I’m convinced we will achieve what many experts have deemed impossible,” said Vanessa Garrett Harley, Deputy Managing Director for Criminal Justice and Public Safety. “We will provide police with an alternative to placing a child in a holding cell for many hours. And we will connect children and families with community-based resources. Instead of heading down a path of further incarceration, they will receive a roadmap for redemption and hope.”
The Hub would pool resources from police, prosecution, the Department of Human Services, probation and other partners and allow for immediate assessment, custody determinations, and access to various City social service agencies and diversion programs.
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