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Citing the harm of solitary confinement on the developing adolescent brain, advocates have been urging the city to stop holding juveniles — even those facing adult criminal charges — in adult jails before trial, and to fold them into the secure juvenile population. Instead, the Philadelphia Department of Prisons plans to move the juvenile males to a unit at Riverside Correctional Facility, the city jail for women, as soon as the school year ends.

“For over a year, we’ve been having a conversation about getting them moved,” said Josh Glenn of the Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project, founded by people who were once juveniles facing adult charges. “It seemed like we were making progress, and now this happened.”

The move comes as the Prisons Department faces a complex housing puzzle. It’s reshuffling inmates to close down the decrepit House of Correction, which as of May 30 was finally empty.

Department spokeswoman Shawn Hawes said the move will let the prisons “house inmates in areas that are most appropriate for their custody level, making the best use of the space.” Currently, there are 15 teenage boys on a unit built for 100 people.

City officials maintain that mixing these teens with the general juvenile population would be illegal, though it is not clear what law prevents it.


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