Plan to put private firm in charge of Allegheny County juvenile detention revealed and criticized

The Shuman Juvenile Detention Center in Pittsburgh. (Photo courtesy Allegheny County)T

The county will reopen its juvenile detention center two years after it closed. The decision was met with criticism from a leading advocate and the president of County Council.

by Charlie Wolfson, PublicSource

Allegheny County announced plans on Friday to reopen its juvenile detention center  two years after closing it due to failed state inspections. The county plans to contract with a private company, Adelphoi, to run the center, a decision that has already sparked backlash from advocates and county council members.

“I have said I am opposed to Adelphoi running anything because they’ve been involved in prior scandals,” said County Council President Pat Catena, who said he was “distraught” over the decision.

There have been multiple allegations in recent years of Adelphoi employees sexually abusing minors. The county has had multi-million-dollar contracts with Latrobe-based Adelphoi for years, for other youth services such as foster care. 

Reached for comment on the allegations, an Adelphoi spokesperson said in an email that the group “is well-recognized as a quality organization with exemplary outcomes, and we stand behind our half-century track record of providing complex services in challenging situations with an unceasing eye toward our mission.”

A Friday press release from the county’s court system said that renovations to the now-closed Shuman Juvenile Detention Center facility in Pittsburgh’s Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood will begin in October and conclude by the end of the year. Adelphoi will begin operations with capacity for 12 youth at first, with space for 60 ultimately planned.

“Adelphoi has a proven track record as a leading and highly respected agency that provides all levels of trauma-informed and evidence-based [services] for delinquent and dependent children,” President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark said in the press release. “This is a crucial step toward creating a safer and more supportive environment for juveniles in the county.”

Catena said County Council members were not informed of the decision until five minutes before it was publicly announced. 

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