David Harrington was 17 when he was charged as an adult and held in Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center, a city jail.
Then, after 8 months — basically his entire sophomore year of high school — a judge sent his case to the juvenile justice system. Legally, he was a kid again.
He was moved to the Juvenile Justice Services Center, where he noticed many differences from his experience at PICC: no more punitive segregation, better access to counselors and programs, and especially the culture among staff. At PICC, he was treated, he felt, like an adult criminal. “The juvenile staff is different,” he said. “They was more caring, more helpful. They treat us like kids.”
Citing, in particular, the harms of solitary confinement on the developing adolescent brain, advocates have been urging the city to stop holding juveniles — even those facing adult criminal charges — in adult jails before trial, and to fold them into the secure juvenile population. Instead, they learned recently, the Philadelphia Department of Prisons plans to move the juvenile males to a unit at Riverside Correctional Facility, the city jail for women, as soon as the school year ends.
“For over a year, we’ve been having a conversation about getting them moved,” said Josh Glenn of the Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project, a group founded by people who were once juveniles facing adult charges. “It seemed like we were making progress, and now this happened.”