The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee voted to advance HB 1381 today, which YSRP hopes will usher in a more humane era of support and care for youth involved in the criminal legal system.
According to the Equal Justice Initiative, nearly 10,000 children across the country have been sentenced as adults and are serving time in adult prisons. Pennsylvania, which has the highest number of incarcerated children serving life sentences and no minimum age to try a child as an adult, is now also home to the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP), a new nonprofit dedicated to aiding Philadelphia’s children who have been prosecuted and are carrying out their sentences in the adult criminal justice system. The nonprofit was founded over the summer and has been steadily gaining traction and support over the last few months. Founded by attorneys Lauren Fine and Joanna Visser Adjoian, the nonprofit’s aim is to change the criminal justice system’s approach to sentencing children through equipping their defense attorneys with the support they need at the trial and sentencing phase, specifically research surrounding child brain development and applicable Supreme Court precedents, according to their article in the Legal Intelligencer. The nonprofit will follow the juveniles from when they enter prison through the conclusion of their sentences and remain a resource after their incarceration. While the children are in prison, the group will look to provide rehabilitation services and information on reintegrating into society prior to the end of their sentences. In addition to working with children and their attorneys, the project will also work with the parents, guardians, and other individuals involved in the lives of children, like guidance counselors, teachers, or doctors, in order to gain a full understanding of each child before the crime took place. Read the full article at Nonprofit Quarterly here.