22 Nov 2014

Children Strip-Searched At New Philadelphia Family Courthouse

Multiple sources involved in cases in Philadelphia Family Court say sheriff’s deputies improperly strip-searched juveniles in both criminal and DHS custody cases who were appearing at the court for hearings earlier this week.
And once court administrators discovered what was going on, they put a stop to it.
According to multiple sources, juveniles in county custody for both criminal and non-criminal matters who were making courtroom appearances at the new Family Courthouse, at 15th and Arch Streets, were first strip-searched by sheriff’s deputies as a security measure all day Monday of this week and possible part of Tuesday.
These sources say the searches occurred individually and in small groups, and that the juveniles were asked to remove all their clothes, to squat, and to cough.
Multiple sources tell KYW Newsradio that the juveniles complained about the practice and, when court administration learned what was going on, administrative judge Kevin Dougherty put a stop to it.
The new courthouse officially opened on Monday.
A spokesman for Philadelphia Family Court issued a statement today that said, “On Tuesdaymorning of this week, in response to concerns raised by child advocates over allegations of strip searches of juveniles, the leadership of Philadelphia Family Court directed the Sheriff’s Office to cease and desist all strip searches pending further notice. Today, Family Court issued new rules governing the screening and detention of juveniles that the Court developed in collaboration with the Sheriff’s Office.”
Our sources were unable to say how many juveniles were searched and/or whether any practice of this sort was in place at the old courthouse.