Push Begins Anew For Juvenile Protection Laws

Senator Lisa Baker has launched the first full-session push for juvenile justice reform by introducing a series of bills to protect the fundamental rights of kids entering the system.

“For too many years, the system utterly and completely failed to protect juveniles in Luzerne County. Now, it is our obligation to approve legislation, judicial rule changes, and administrative procedures necessary to safeguard the rights of juveniles, as the state Constitution requires and a commitment to quality justice dictates,” Baker said.

Baker’s bills will:

  • Eliminate waiving counsel in juvenile delinquency hearings
  • Create a victim advocate devoted to juvenile justice
  • Require judges to state on the record the reasons behind disposition orders
  • Expedite appellate review of juvenile cases
  • Prohibit shackling of juveniles in the courtroom

Baker believes that the wide-raging recommendations of the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice must be enacted, plus several reforms beyond the Commission’s work. “With the start of a new legislative session, there is ample time to give reform full consideration, debate, and action. The trial of Judge Ciavarella is a daily reminder of how the precepts of justice were discarded for greed, arrogance, and corruption. Public expectations for effective reforms to be delivered by each branch of state government have never been higher,” she noted.

“Having had the chance to discuss these issues with Chief Justice Ron Castille, I am encouraged by the concern he expresses and the time he and others are devoting to developing stronger rules governing the juvenile justice system,” Baker added.

She pointed out that other legislators with expertise in criminal justice issues are preparing legislation, an indication of the priority the Luzerne County problem is attracting.

“Whether the protections contained in any of these bills are ultimately realized through new laws or better court rules or a combination, the most important thing is that the protections are clearly defined, widely complied with, and properly enforced,” Baker concluded.

Contact: Jennifer Wilson
(570) 675-3931

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