Seeks to Prevent Corruption and Restore Public Confidence
Harrisburg – The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved a bill sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) that seeks to prevent further cases of corruption in county juvenile courts and restore public confidence by establishing an Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice.
Baker said the legislation was drafted in response to an alarming case of corruption uncovered in Luzerne County, which resulted in hundreds of juveniles being improperly sentenced and inappropriately placed in detention.
“Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system is well-regarded, filled with good and dedicated individuals. However, there is a cloud over the system as a result of what happened in Luzerne County,” Baker told the committee. “We must prevent this from ever happening again, and we must protect the constitutional rights of juveniles as they work their way through the system.”
Baker’s measure would create an 11-member commission, appointed by the Chief Justice, General Assembly and Governor, to conduct a thorough review of juvenile justice procedures, practices and rules and regulations and to pursue remedies and reform. It is part of a broad, bipartisan effort between state House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille and Governor Ed Rendell.
“We need to examine the law, the rules, the procedures, and the oversight, to determine where the problems are, and to figure out how to fix them,” Baker said. “There are two overarching goals – to remedy the wrong and to restore public confidence.”
Baker added that while the commission is an important first step in improving the current system and preventing further corruption, further legislation is needed to address the interests of the victims and ensure that juveniles are protected as they move through the justice process.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson