Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Real Life Real Issues Juvenile Justice: Education and Re-Integration / No "life, no parole" sentences for youth

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | May 25, 2017 8:00 PM


On the Friday, May 26th 2017 edition of WITF's Smart Talk:

Smart Talk concludes its four-part Real Life Real Issues series on the state's juvenile justice system with a look at maintaining the education of youth offenders while working to re-integrate them back into their communities.

Pennsylvania's Bureau of Juvenile Justice Services sees education as key "to enable them [youth offenders] to return to and function in the public-school system."  This includes programing in detention facilities and contracts with third party service providers, including Pennsylvania's River Rock Academy and the George Junior Republic campus in Grove City.

Smart Talk will discuss the continued schooling of juvenile offenders, GED programming and the importance of education in reducing recidivism with Bob Howard, COO of River Rock Academy, Sandy Dillon-Dick, Vice President of Treatment at George Junior Republic.

We'll also speak with Bethany Wheeler, a mobile therapist with George Junior who goes house-to-house, school-to-school helping children and their families navigate the juvenile probation system.

Also, there are nearly 2,500 Americans who were convicted of committing crimes as juveniles and are serving prison sentences of life, no parole.  The 2012 Supreme Court ruling Miller v. Alabama found that these sentences were unconstitutional when levied against juveniles.  In 2016, the Montgomery v. Louisiana decision applied that ruling retroactively, to youths who had been incarcerated for decades.

Currently, district attorneys across the state are waiting on another ruling before deciding how to re-examine the more than 450 "adjudicated youth" facing life without parole in Pennsylvania.  Smart Talk will discuss these re-sentences with Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman.  We will also be joined by Riya Shah, Senior Supervising Attorney with the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia; the organization has been working to prevent life, no parole sentencing for youths and keeping juveniles out of adult facilities.

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