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How is Juvenile Detention Different From Jail in Philadelphia?

Most of us probably have some level of knowledge about life in jail or prison. We either know someone who has been to jail or have seen news stories regarding incarceration. People often do not realize that jail and juvenile detention centers are vastly different.

Life inside a juvenile detention center is a far cry from life inside a jail or prison. While jail tends to focus on punishment for convicted defendants, juvenile detention focuses on rehabilitation and treatment. This theme tends to permeate the entire juvenile justice system. In a juvenile detention center, juveniles who have been adjudicated delinquent may receive things like treatment and therapy to help them avoid reoffending in the future. While prisons and jails have similar programs, they are not always available in every facility and are often optional rather than court mandated. While juveniles are usually put through the juvenile system, they might be subjected to the adult system and adult penalties under certain circumstances. If your child is in legal trouble, call a lawyer immediately.

Contact our Philadelphia juvenile defense lawyers for a private, free case review by calling The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.

Life Inside a Juvenile Detention Facility vs. Jail or Prison in Philadelphia

People often talk about juvenile detention centers – sometimes called “juvie” – as if they are kid versions of jails or prisons. While many juvenile detention centers are designed to house kids for an extended period, they are not the same as jails.

Juvenile Detention

Juvenile detention centers in Philadelphia are focused more on helping young people instead of punishing them. While juvenile detention has punitive elements, punishment is not the overall point of sending a juvenile offender there.

Juvenile detention centers or facilities focused more on treatment. For example, suppose a young offender is adjudicated delinquent for selling controlled substances. In that case, they might be ordered to participate in drug treatment and counseling while they are in the detention center. If the juvenile is in trouble for fighting, they might be treated for underlying anger issues that cause them to become violent. Various treatment options are available, and the court may tailor your child’s juvenile detention plans to their specific needs.

Juveniles also may continue their education while in juvenile detention. Kids may attend classes or courses within the centers so they do not fall behind academically after they are released. Ideally, kids in detention centers should be able to transition smoothly back into normal school when they are released.

Speaking of being released, detention centers may provide recently released juveniles and their families with aftercare services. These services are designed to help kids transition back to their normal homes, schools, and lives in a way that keeps them from reoffending. Our Malvern, PA criminal defense lawyers can be present during your child’s disposition hearing to make sure they are given the resources they need.

Jail or Prison

When a person is sentenced to time in jail or prison, the purpose of their sentence is primarily to punish. Prison and jail are not intended to be positive experiences, and prison officials do not address many problems that adult offenders deal with. For example, if an adult is sent to jail on drug charges, they might not have access to drug and alcohol treatment or counseling. While some prisons and jails offer such programs, they are not universal or always available.

Life in jail or prison is typically more difficult and restrictive than in juvenile detention centers. While both facilities are secured and movement is at least somewhat restricted, inmates in jail or prison often cannot do anything or go anywhere without the approval of prison personnel. In many cases, inmates spend most of their days in a cell.

Jails and prisons also tend to offer less in the way of aftercare services. While some services exist, such as transitional housing or halfway houses, they are not the norm. Many inmates released from jail or prison are simply let go with very little resources to prevent reoffending.

Can Juvenile Offenders Go to Jail in Philadelphia?

Parents and young people might assume that if someone is under the age of 18, they cannot go to jail or prison. While this is true for many cases, it is not true all the time. In Philadelphia, juvenile offenders may be tried as adults under specific circumstances. When a juvenile is tried as an adult, they face adult penalties, including potential ail or prison time.

According to 237 Pa. Code Rule § § 394(C)-(D), to transfer a juvenile to adult court, the prosecutor must establish a prima facie case that the juvenile committed a delinquent act that would be a felony if committed by an adult and that transferring the juvenile to adult court would serve the public interest. If the prosecutor meets this burden, the court may transfer the juvenile if it finds that the juvenile is at least 14, that notice of the transfer hearing has been provided to all required parties, and that the juvenile does not need to be in a facility for people with mental illnesses.

Even when tried as adults, juvenile offenders are not mixed in with the general population of a jail or prison. If a juvenile is tried as an adult and sentenced to jail or prison, they are usually sequestered from everyone else.

What to Do if Your Child is Facing Juvenile Detention in Philadelphia

If your child is facing juvenile detention, call a lawyer immediately. You should treat the situation as if your child is an adult facing the police, prosecutor, and other authorities all working against them. Do not advise your child without speaking to a lawyer first.

Additionally, do not pressure your child into cooperating with the police or admitting fault or guilt. When children are arrested, parents sometimes view it as an opportunity for a teachable moment. They might try to convince their child to be honest, own up to what they did, and take responsibility. Many parents do not realize until it is too late that the justice system does not give out brownie points for honesty. If you convince your child to confess, you might only be ensuring they are removed from your home and placed in a detention facility.

Call Our Philadelphia Juvenile Defense Lawyers About Your Child’s Case

Reach out to our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers for a private, free case review by calling The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.