Philadelphia County regularly puts kids as young as fifteen in solitary confinement inside adult jails. Despite a 2016 pledge from jail administrators to end the practice, the Inquirer and Daily News reported that long-term solitary confinement was imposed on youth in Philadelphia county adult jails 70 times, for an average of 32 days, from January 2017 through March 2018.
Pennsylvania law allows some youth to be charged as adults. Philadelphia historically housed youth awaiting trial inside one of its adult jails, the Philadelphia Industrial Detention Center (PICC), despite the fact that many other jurisdictions safely hold youth charged as adults in juvenile detention facilities. Advocates argue that Philadelphia county can and should house youth charged as adults in the local juvenile detention center – the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center. While federal law requires “any person under the age of 18, and incarcerated or detained in a prison or jail” to be housed separately from adults, it does not prevent juvenile justice facilities from housing youth charged as adults.
In June 2018, the Philadelphia Department of Prisons announced plans to move the boys to a unit at Riverside Correctional Facility, the city jail for women. Advocates report that, “over the last two years, there have been multiple instances of youths attempting or threatening suicide while housed in Philadelphia’s adult jails. These cases show just how profoundly ill-equipped Philadelphia’s adult jails are to house children. When jail staff believe that a youth may be suicidal, that young person is transferred to a psychiatric unit in another jail, where he or she may be kept half-naked and freezing in isolation for days—if not weeks—at a time, as documented by the Inquirer and Daily News in 2017.”
Prison Commissioner Blanche Carney said the prisons have policies in place to reduce punitive segregation for juveniles, but youth and advocates it still happens. According to an article in Philly.com in 2017, dozens of youth are put in solitary confinement for an average of 32 days at a time. In 2017, State Representative Joanna McClinton, a former Philadelphia public defender, announced her intent to introduce legislation that would prevent youth from being housed in adult jails before trial unless charged with homicide.
Should Philly Keep Holding Kids in Adult Jails? (June 2018)