Over the past several months, Target 11 has reported on the concerns raised by last year’s sudden closing of Allegheny County’s only juvenile detention center.
Police and politicians have expressed frustration that there is not enough space to house the most violent young offenders.
Earlier this week, a 15-year-old was found with a gun in his backpack outside of Brashear High School.
Sources tell Target 11 that police wanted to arrest him but had nowhere to hold him.
He was later released on house arrest with electronic monitoring.
It’s a scenario that has played out many times since the closing of the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center a year ago.
Target 11 spoke with Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey about this issue. He expressed similar frustration and concerns.
“They should never have shut it down without a plan. I have expressed to you that we need a Schuman Center. We need the Shuman Center,” Gainey said. “I had a conversation with County Administrator (Rich) Fitzgerald about what we should do. But we probably need to rethink what the Shuman Center looks like to make it more effective.”
The county closed Shuman last September after the state revoked its license due to repeated safety violations.
A decade ago, the center had an average population of about 100 teenagers. But during the last months of its existence, it averaged only about a dozen teenagers.
“Youth facilities that used to be county by county have somewhat diminished over the years as licenses have been taken away and various counties have gotten out of that mode,” Fitzgerald said.
Since the closing, the county has leased 16 beds in private facilities in Westmoreland and Cambria counties.
However, when these facilities are full, electronic house arrest is the only option.
Fitzgerald said the courts along with the governor’s office and Allegheny County are now working together to explore possible solutions. Fitzgerald said one option is a regional approach.
“You could definitely see some kind of regional hub involving a dozen or more counties. So I think some of those conversations are going on because I think you’re right, the need is there,” Fitzgerald said.
The courts declined our request for an interview, but a representative provided Target 11 with a statement.
“Courts are continuing efforts to identify additional juvenile slots/beds which could include partnerships with other agencies and organizations and even a new location,” said Joe Asturi, director of communications for Pennsylvania’s Fifth Judicial District.
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