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Juvenile detention rate causes concern in Pennsylvania

Juveniles, just like adults, commit crimes in Philadelphia. A teenager can be charged with drug possession, theft, assault and any other crime that adults can commit. Juvenile cases are handled slightly differently than adult cases, though. The main difference with the juvenile law system is that the goal of punishment is rehabilitation instead of punishment alone. Therefore, the punishments themselves are generally different and do not involve detention quite as often.

However, recent statistics show that juvenile detention rates are higher in Pennsylvania than in other states around the nation. Seventeen years ago, Pennsylvania had a detention rate that was 17 percent below the national average but as of 2011 the rate was actually 21 percent above the national average. In Philadelphia, the detention rate for juveniles in 2012 had remained about the same since 2004.

Some argue that these statistics can be misleading because many institutions where these juveniles are placed offer programming designed for rehabilitation. However, others say ultimately any sort of confinement is still confinement and has been shown to be detrimental to the mental and emotional health of the juveniles who are detained. Philadelphia recently joined an initiative to reduce reliance on detention, but the statistics still show that over the years there has not been a significant reduction.

In addition to detention, there are many other consequences that juveniles are given such as community service, fines and other punishments. These consequences along with detention can have serious consequences, both immediate and long-term. However, just like the adult system a juvenile is innocent until proven guilty and there may be defenses available to them depending on the facts of the case.

Many juveniles are charged with crimes in Philadelphia every year. If adjudicated of the offense, the juvenile may be facing serious long-term consequences, such as detention. Experienced attorneys understand the various defenses available to juveniles and may be able to help one avoid a conviction and the penalties associated with it.

Source:, "Pa. lags nation in reducing juvenile detention," Chris Palmer and William Ecenbarger, November 15, 2014

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