Target 11 talks to mayor and county executive about impact of Shuman closing

PITTSBURGH — For the past several months, Target 11 has been reporting on concerns caused by last year’s sudden closing of Allegheny County’s only juvenile detention center.

Police and politicians have expressed frustration that there’s not enough room to house the more violent young offenders.

Earlier this week, a 15-year-old was found with a gun in his backpack outside of Brashear High School.

Sources tell Target 11 that police wanted to detain him but had no place to hold him.

He was then released on house arrest with electronic monitoring.

It’s a scenario that’s played out multiple times since the closing of the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center a year ago.

Target 11 spoke with Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey about this issue. He expressed similar frustration and concerns.

“They should have never closed it without having a plan. I’ve expressed to you that we need a Shuman Center. We do need Shuman Center,” said Gainey. “I’ve had a conversation with County Executive (Rich) Fitzgerald about what we need to do. But we probably need to reimagine what Shuman Center looks like to make it more effective.”

The county closed Shuman last September after the state revoked its license due to repeated safety violations.

A decade ago, the center averaged a population of about 100 teens. But during the last few months of its existence, it only averaged about a dozen or so teens.

“The youth facilities that typically had been county by county have kind of dwindled over the years as licenses have been taken away, and various counties have gotten out of that operation,” said Fitzgerald.

Since the closing, the county has rented 16 beds at private facilities in Westmoreland and Cambria counties.

However, when those facilities are full, electronic house arrest is the only option.

Fitzgerald said the courts along with the governor’s office and Allegheny County are now working together to explore possible solutions. Fitzgerald said one option is a regional approach.

“You absolutely could see some sort of regional center which a dozen or more counties participate in. So I think that some of those conversations are going on because I think you’re right, the need is there,” said Fitzgerald.

The courts have declined our request for an interview, but a spokesman did release a statement to Target 11.

“The Courts are continuing efforts to identify additional slots/beds for juveniles which could include partnerships with other agencies and organizations and up to and including a new location,” said Joe Asturi, the director of communications for the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania.

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