Formerly incarcerated kids call for Pa. juvenile system reform

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Underage and under arrest. Pennsylvania is one of the most notorious states for incarcerating young people. Many are calling for reform and on Tuesday, previously imprisoned kid lent their voices to the cause at the capitol.

They were young, they were incarcerated, and they’re demanding change.

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State Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia) wants to end direct file which automatically treats 15 to 17-year-olds as adults if they’re charged with serious crimes. He says justice isn’t blind. It’s preying on the poor, the black, and the brown.

“When it happens to some kids it’s because they’re criminals, when it happens to others, oh they have mental health issues and they need help. We have a double standard in this society which is why you don’t see a lot of white kids here,” Rabb said.

A legislative task force called for changes including the elimination of fines and restitution which keeps kids in the system and an end to putting youths in adult prisons, which happened to David Harrington.

“They don’t show proper patience for them, they hold them in solitary confinement, they get beat on,” Harrington said.

But when kids commit adult crimes should there not be serious punishment?

“Do we believe in rehabilitation? Do we believe in responsibility? If we do, that can happen, that doesn’t have to be behind bars,” Rabb said.

House and Senate. Democrat and Republican. All agree changes need to be made to the system. Advocates here are wondering when those changes will begin.