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Shuman Juvenile Detention Center Closure Sparks Concerns About Potential Effects On Children

The Shuman Juvenile Detention Center will shut down in September. Allegheny County officials made the announcement Monday, citing ongoing violations as the reason for the closure.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services revoked the facility’s license to operate last week. It had been operating on its fourth sequential provisional license.

“Over the last six years, we have put additional resources into the facility, supported new leadership and efforts by the professionals running the center, and continued to work with the Courts and the state on alternatives,” County Manager William McKain said in the announcement. “Yet, we continued to see violations that were only exacerbated during the pandemic with staffing challenges.”

There are 20 kids currently housed at the center. They will be transferred to other state-operated facilities, including some centers in other counties.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald supported the closure, calling it “the best decision for taxpayers and for the youth that Shuman has served.”

But other local officials have condemned the closure, citing concerns that it could make it more difficult for the kids to see their families.

“Giving up on the Shuman Center and removing residents to facilities likely to be farther from and less accessible to their families and communities is a last resort that the County should be continuing to work to avoid,” said Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner.

She also noted that the closure will impact the facility’s union employees, whose jobs will be eliminated.

“Removing youth placed in our care from the County is a decision of great consequence that deserved due input and consideration, as is summarily letting go dozens of extremely dedicated workers,” Wagner said.

In a statement, Allegheny County Councilperson at-large Bethany Hallam criticized the closure as “haphazard and unprofessional.”

“At a minimum, we must transfer Shuman employees to other departments within the County administration and provide them with any necessary support and retraining,” she said.

The county said they “are working with unions to address the employee issues resulting from this mandated closure.”

The facility will close on September 18th.

Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
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