When individuals years ago began registering complaints about the mistreatment of kids at the hands of the juvenile justice system, few seemed to listen.
When the Juvenile Law Center pursued those complaints, they were rebuffed.
When I stated my determination to pursue reforms and remedies through legislation, the reaction was less than encouraging.
So what we see here today is a remarkable turnaround. This event is about two bills becoming law, and several more on the way. But there is something even more meaningful. We have an assemblage of public interest groups, court officials, state legislators, local officials, community-minded individuals, all sharing a strong commitment and making contributions toward reestablishing quality justice in Luzerne County.
This is a day to say thank you.
*To the kids and the parents who had the courage to come forward and say what is happening is not right.
*To the Juvenile Law Center, for their unrelenting quest to secure quality justice.
*To the members of the Interbranch Commission, for one of the finest demonstrations of public service in the face of crisis we will ever see.
*To my legislative colleagues, especially Senator Stewart Greenleaf, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who pushed forward key legislation even as doubters and detractors tried to discourage such efforts.
*To President Judge Tom Burke and the members of the local juvenile justice task force, who poured extensive time and exceptional devotion into reshaping the juvenile justice system and reestablishing the necessary connection of trust between court and community.
*To the state judiciary, for deciding that stronger, clearer rules were needed for a better and fairer juvenile justice system everywhere.
*To Governor Corbett, who by virtue of his prosecutorial background and prowess appreciated that action was warranted on every front – through judicial rules, legislation, and administrative oversight.
What we do here will protect kids in the future, make sure that Constitutional rights are not taken away in wholesale fashion, and guard against the practice of intimidation ever again replacing the principles of justice. But the signing of these bills – the mandatory counsel bill most notably – will bring closure for families who were badly hurt by a system that was intended to help them. In that way, at long last, there is some measure of justice, of redemption, and of peace.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson