Criminal Justice Committee focuses on keeping Philly youth out of jail

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Members of the City Council Criminal Justice Reform Committee listen to testimony Monday. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Members of the City Council Criminal Justice Reform Committee listen to testimony Monday. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Reform Committee held a hearing in City Council Chambers Monday as it attempts to keep kids out of the criminal justice system.  

Other parts of the country have cut youth crime with something as simple as a summer job, said Chekemma Fulmore Townsend of the Philadelphia Youth Network.

“In Chicago, violent crime arrests dropped by 43 percent over 16 months,” she told City Council members. “In New York, mortality declined by 20 percent  over five to seven years. Importantly, the declines occur largely after the program ends.”

Stephanie Bradley of the Prevention Research Center at Penn State University advised that  Philadelphia officials have to make sure it funds the right programs.  Youth programs that are not designed based on research can actually make things worse, she said.

“We have research that — over and over again — that certain types of approaches can increase risk and cause youth to become more delinquent than before they participated in the program,” Bradley said.

For now, the city is moving forward with a summer jobs initiative.

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