Shuman Center will reopen: Some welcome the news; others, not so


The Shuman Juvenile Detention Center, closed since September 2021, is reopening.

And while that’s good news for some elected officials and some Allegheny County residents, there’s a caveat.

Shuman is not meant to be a place where juvenile offenders don’t get, or aren’t offered, help. It’s not meant to be a place where teens come in, get shipped out, and come right back.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, basically angry that it closed in the first place, was adamant about the recidivism issue.

“We also have to understand that in Shuman Center, we have to talk about practices that’s going to help them not come back to Shuman,” the mayor said on Friday, Sept. 15. He said it’s important that Shuman “has the type of resources, or they can get the juveniles the type of resources they’ll need so this is not a revolving door. We want these kids to grow up and live productive lives.”


About an hour before Mayor Gainey took questions in Downtown for a press conference on an unrelated topic, the news broke about the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court signing an agreement with Latrobe-based Adelphoi to provide juvenile detention services, which includes the reopening and operating of Shuman. In a release, the Court said that Adelphoi “has provided services to Allegheny County youth and families for over 40 years. The organization embraces a model of trauma-informed care which will be a centerpiece of the center’s services.”

Why did Shuman close in the first place? The center had undergone a number of licensing issues, particularly due to a number of violations, including a heroin overdose at the center. Some of those housed at the center had been able to escape on a number of occasions, in addition to thefts and an incident where a juvenile was left at the center’s infirmary alone.

It was the Pa. Department of Human Services that recommended and ultimately revoked Shuman’s license to operate as a juvenile detention facility.

“This is a crucial step toward creating a safer and more supportive environment for juveniles in the county. The opening of the center will greatly enhance the safety of all communities in Allegheny County, consistent with balanced and restorative justice—the mission of the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice System.”

“The licensing at the facility has been an ongoing issue,” said Allegheny County Manager William D. McKain, in a statement from Aug. 23, 2021. “Over the last six years, we have put additional resources into the facility, supported new leadership and efforts by the professionals running the center, and continued to work with the Courts and the state on alternatives. Yet, we continued to see violations that were only exacerbated during the pandemic with staffing challenges.”

Shuman is located in the hills of Lincoln-Lemington, out of sight and, for some, out of mind. Its closure has been blamed as the reason why there’s been an increase of violence committed by youth in the county. Following a triple homicide that occurred on the North Side in October 2022, Mayor Gainey said the increase of violence was due, in part, to Shuman’s closure.

“We should have never closed Shuman without a plan,” the mayor said.

To the “average Joe,” it was hard for them to decipher who was at fault for Shuman’s closing. Some residents blamed Mayor Gainey. Others blamed Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. Some residents blamed both. The “average Joe” seemed to only care about if it would reopen, or if there would be a new facility to house juvenile offenders.

In February, Tim Stevens, Chairman and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, sent a letter to whom he called “Allegheny County Leadership,” demanding that the county not contract its juvenile detention services to a private company.

“We should not consider committing any child to a detention center, either as a public or private facility, without first considering the many better alternatives to incarceration,” the letter read. The letter was co-signed by 21 other organizations, such as Destiny of Faith Church, the Alliance for Police Accountability, Hill District Ministers Alliance, and the NAACP Pittsburgh Branch. “Home confinement, short-term shelter care, and family therapy are some of the youth-centered methods that are alternatives to a detention center. Evening resource centers to receive supportive services, recreational opportunities, and educational support and counseling are better alternatives to incarceration. Youth diversion programs, such as those offered by 1HOOD, work well. These programs allow children to provide services to the community without giving them a criminal record.”

Near the end of the letter, it read: “We acknowledge that the Shuman Youth Detention Center, when it was run by the county, had more than its share of troubles. That’s why—if you reopen a youth detention facility —you must make sure it is monitored, visited regularly, and staffed safely. The county needs to be legally accountable for the safety of the children placed in its care.”

Ultimately, the county —or more specifically, the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania—decided to reopen Shuman via a contract with a private company, Adelphoi.

“Adelphoi has a proven track record as a leading and highly respected agency that provides all levels of trauma-informed and evidence-based serves for delinquent and dependent children. This is a crucial step toward creating a safer and more supportive environment for juveniles in the county,” said Common Pleas President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark, in a statement, Sept. 15. “The opening of the center will greatly enhance the safety of all communities in Allegheny County, consistent with balanced and restorative justice—the mission of the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice System.”

Shuman will undergo $4.7 million in renovations and will reopen in January 2024 with availability for 12 juveniles (or young adults), which, in the past, has averaged ages of 14 to 20. Shuman will eventually have the ability to house up to 60 people.

“To the violent perpetrators in this city, we need Shuman Center, there’s no question,” Mayor Gainey said, Sept. 15. “If you’re picking up guns and you’re using guns, and you’ve created death on our streets, we don’t want you in these streets, period.”





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