PITTSBURGH — While Kayleigh Potter plays with her youngest son at the playground, her oldest is currently sitting in an Allegheny County jail cell.
“I fought so hard to have him taken away because I thought he was going to die over the summer. It was a life-or-death decision. If he had stayed on the streets doing what he was doing, he would not have made it, like how many other kids in Pittsburgh,” Potter said.
It’s not a typical statement you hear from a parent. Potter called repeatedly to report her son Jimmy’s juvenile crimes to the police.
“I turned him in, he did it again. They brought him home and within hours, he was right back there, the same business,” Potter said.
She told Channel 11 he cut one ankle monitor, another he let die and the third, he scrabbled the signal.
“There are no consequences, and they know this. He met a group of kids that have been doing this for the past two years, and they are showing him the rope. Just wrap it in foil, you don’t even have to cut it off, you can just wrap it with foil. It’s dangerous, they are just kids,” Potter said.
Potter’s frustration mirrors many others.
In Carrick, surveillance video shows a 14-year-old with an ankle monitor jogging towards the scene of a murder of another teen. Police said he committed the crime while on house arrest.
In another case, jailhouse video shows Sean Davis repeatedly sliding off his monitor, a month later, while still on house arrest, Davis was accused of opening fire at that funeral home in Brighton Heights, wounding five people.
A broken justice system has left this mother wondering if her son will just be the next number.
“These kids, it’s not their first offenses. They didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘I’m going to kill somebody today.’ It leads up to it and I noticed my child’s behavior changing, I noticed the defiance and attitude, and I’m stepping in to put an end to it and I think more parents need to do the same,” Potter said.
Now his latest charge — robbery with a pellet gun at a Sunoco in Brookline — has him facing adult charges. While she’s called, reported and begged for help, she always got the same answer: ‘We have nowhere to put him.’
“Short of murder, you have to murder someone, that’s the only way, then it’s too late. It’s preventative. The worst part is every single one of the kids knows this is the system we are working with right now,” Potter said.
She called it catch and release. Now she’s looking for a fix, but she doesn’t think the Shuman Center will be the answer when it reopens with just 12 beds later this year.
“He made bad choices. But the whole premise of the juvenile system is rehabilitation. These kids are fixable, it’s not about punishment, it’s about rehabilitation, but if you don’t have consequences, there is no lesson learned.”
We asked Allegheny County Courts about the flaws Potter said are in the system, and a spokesperson told us:
“Since Shuman Center closed, there are simply not enough detention beds to hold juveniles who violate electronic monitoring accountable. This situation will continue until additional detention beds are available.”
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