YSRP Files Emergency Lawsuit in PA Supreme Court to Protect Incarcerated Youth During COVID-19 Pandemic
Dear Friends,

COVID-19 presents particularly urgent challenges and potentially devastating consequences for YSRP’s client-partners in confinement across Pennsylvania. Experts have warned that jails and detention centers are “petri dishes” for the harmful, and potentially fatal, virus. These unprecedented times call for unprecedented action. In response, we partnered with Juvenile Law Center and DLA Piper to file an emergency lawsuit seeking the immediate release of virtually all incarcerated children in our state.

We filed this lawsuit, called a King's Bench petition, in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on Wednesday (April 1st) on behalf of all Pennsylvania youth currently held in juvenile detention centers or other correctional/residential placements, and on behalf of youth charged as adults ("Direct File Juveniles") who are currently detained in county jails or juvenile detention centers. Our efforts were strengthened by tremendous partnership from the Defender Association of Philadelphia, as well as from advocates and experts across the country. You can read the full petition here.

Two of YSRP's client-partners served as named* Petitioners in the lawsuit. Devastating stories that our team heard directly from our client-partners about their experiences formed the basis of many of the claims included in the petition. Many of our youth client-partners have received no information about the COVID-19 virus, and have received even less protection from it. The facilities they live in are not providing adequate precautions, and it is structurally impossible for youth to follow the guidance of the CDC for protection from exposure -- including frequent handwashing, sanitizing of high-touch surfaces, and social distancing. In some facilities, staff and other prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19.

We were compelled to file the suit because our youth client-partners, and all children incarcerated across Pennsylvania, are at an extreme and disproportionate risk for contracting COVID-19. If children in custody contract the virus, it is clear that the facilities they inhabit will not provide them the care they deserve. By protecting the safety of these children, we are protecting our broader community.

By filing Wednesday’s lawsuit, and seeking additional action from Philadelphia City leadership in a demand letter available here, YSRP is making clear that we stand with all youth in custody, and particularly those facing charges in the adult justice system, as we seek to avoid further devastation.

Wishing you health and wellness,

The Team at YSRP
*using their initials only to protect their privacy as minors
Our Efforts in The Press:
Copyright © 2020 Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP), All rights reserved.

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