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March 23, 2015
By E—mail and First-Class Mail
Roseann Perry, Director Governor Tom Wolf
Bureau of Child and Family Services Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Health and Welfare Building 200 South Broad Street, 1 1"‘ Floor
625 Forster Street Philadelphia, PA 19102
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120
RE: Reguest to shut down the unlawful Berks Coung Residential Center and to revoke
unlawfully issued license.
Dear Ms. Perry:
1 am an attorney in New York who has represented various children who have previously
been detained at the Berks County Residential Center (“BCRC”) located in Leesport,
As you know, Pennsylvania Code § 3800 govems the standards for licensing and
regulation over child residential centers.
On October 31, 2014, Pennsylvania's Office of Children, Youth, and Families (“OCYF”)
issued a Certiﬁcate of Compliance for the BCRC as “Child Residential and Day Treatment
Facilities pursuant to PA § 3800, renewing its license until February 21, 2016.
However, OCYF had no authority to issue a certiﬁcate of compliance for BCRC because
the latter is a “secure detention facility” under PA Code § 3800.5, which is “. ..any 24-hour living
setting to one or more children. . . from which voluntary egress is prohibited" through one of the
(i) Egress from the building, or a portion of the building, is prohibited through internal locks
within the building or exterior locks.
(ii) Egress from the premises is prohibited through secure fencing around the perimeter of the
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In BCRC children are prohibited from leaving because of locks and guards prohibit their
Even a mother who desperately wants to protect her 14 day old baby--and thus, a baby
without any immunities to viruses and bacteria--from contracting a potentially deadly infection
by leaving is physically barred from doing so.
As such, the license issued by OCYF to the operators of BCRC--the Berks County
Commissioners--is unlawful because BCRC does not comply with the licensing requirements for
a secure detention facility for children as set forth by PA Code § 3800.283.
PA Code § 3800.283(7) prohibits the placement of children 9 years of age and younger in
a secure detention facility. Subsection 8 further states that: “A child may not remain in the
facility longer than is absolutely necessary. ”
PA Code § 6237(e) further clariﬁes that the only time a child under the age of 10 can be
detained is if that child is a “dependent child. ” If detained, that child must then be placed in a
shelter care facility, which is far less restrictive than a secure detention facility.
A dependent child includes children under the age of 10 who have been abandoned by
their parents or guardians; have no parents; or have committed a delinquent act.
None of the children detained in BCRC are “dependent children. ” Further, even children
under 10 who are classiﬁed as dependent would be barred from placement in BCRC because it is
a secure detention facility.
The Standards for Governing The Use of Secure Detention Under The Juvenile Act, PA §
200, contains additional robust protections against the detaining children whenever possible.
For example, even children 10 years and older cannot be placed in a secure detention
facility unless that child has also alleged or been found to be delinquent. See PA Code § 200. 1 (a)
When a child is eligible for secure detention, subsection b of the same code states that
detention is not mandatory and “forms of control short of secure detention. . . shall be given
BCRC is detaining non-delinquent children—-including babies just a few days old--for one
sole purpose: to permit Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE") to deport them and their
Since June of 2014, BCRC has been detaining children for several months and in some
instances up to one year.
It is substantially less than “absolutely necessary” for the Berks County Commissioners
to detain children under the age of 10 in a secure detention facility for as long as it takes to
In fact, detention of children in BCRC is directly against their best interests because it
harms their physical and mental health. OCYF’s licensing of BCRC is an act directly against the
best interests of the children it is bound by law to protect.
Given that the BCRC is in direct violation of PA Code § 3800(7)-(8); PA Code §
200. 1(a)-(b), and that it violates the entire legal and regulatory framework for child welfare in
Pennsylvania by detaining children directly against their best interests, BCRC’s license must be
revoked and BCRC must be shut down immediately.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. If you should have any questions,
please call me at 631-647-9701.
Very Truly Yours,
Bryan S. Johnson, Esq.
Pennsylvania Ofﬁce of Attomey General
Attomey General Kathleen Kane
16”‘ Floor, Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Berks County Services Center
633 Court Street, 13"‘ Floor
Reading, PA 19601