Young Leaders Call on Pennsylvania Lawmakers to Reform Juvenile Justice

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Youth advocates across Pennsylvania are calling on lawmakers to take urgent action on juvenile justice reform.

This comes after a hearing on the subject but some say not all voices have been heard.

“In order to survive this system trying to destroy you, you literally become an animal, you have to be so desensitized,” Andre Simms said.

Simms was locked up at the age of 17 and says he was introduced to things no young person should experience, such as depression, drug addiction and even suicide.

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“I felt like I was trapped in a situation that I had no control over and I wanted to end it,” Simms said.

He’s not alone, and that’s why on the steps of the State Capitol, leaders of the Care, Not Control campaign are urging lawmakers to listen to young voices and protect them from the inhumane conditions of the juvenile justice system.

“The problem among these prisons is that they are created to incarcerate young people, but the question is, what is the alternative?” said Amara Coles.

“Another young person who is like me can have the same opportunity to give back and help the community, but he doesn’t have that opportunity, if you don’t give him that opportunity, how can he strive? How can they grow beyond who they are as a person? That’s why we have to plant the seed for these young people because they are the new generation,” said My Le.

“We owe the young people who, as they are children, when are we going to take responsibility when is the institution going to take responsibility for curing our young people?” said Sims.

Campaign leaders say children should be treated like children and more investment should be made in communities to prevent young people from committing more crimes.

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