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HAAS APPEAL (05/14/75)


decided: May 14, 1975.


Appeal from orders of Court of Common Pleas, Family Division, of Allegheny County, No. J-1918 of 1972, in the interest of Susan Haas, a minor child.


Richard Alan Weinstein, with him Abraham J. Glick, for appellant.

Harry F. Swanger, with him Thomas N. Kiehnoff, amicus curiae.

John M. Duff, Deputy Attorney General, with him Thomas F. Halloran, Assistant Attorney General, and Robert P. Kane, Attorney General, for appellee.

Watkins, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Hoffman, J.

Author: Hoffman

[ 234 Pa. Super. Page 424]

Appellant contends that the juvenile court erred in sentencing her, upon adjudication of delinquency, to the State Correctional Institution at Muncy, rather than to an institution designed to receive and treat juvenile delinquents.

Appellant was born on August 14, 1958, and was sixteen years old at the time that she was most recently adjudicated delinquent. Her involvement with the juvenile justice system apparently began on June 8, 1972, at the age of thirteen, when her mother brought her to a juvenile detention home because she was incorrigible, habitually stayed out all night, and on one occasion left home for two weeks. This matter was handled informally. Shortly thereafter, the appellant left home and hitchhiked to Maumee, Ohio, with another girl. She was arrested in

[ 234 Pa. Super. Page 425]

Ohio, and her mother brought her back to Pittsburgh. Appellant was taken to the juvenile detention home, and again released without formal court action.

On September 28, 1972, appellant's mother filed the first formal delinquency petition, charging that appellant was incorrigible, a runaway, and used dangerous drugs. A hearing was scheduled for October 17, 1972, but appellant ran away in the interim and did not appear. Appellant was apprehended in Philadelphia, in a motel room with an adult male, on or about November 18, 1972. A second petition was filed on November 28, 1972. On November 30, appellant was, for the first time, adjudicated delinquent and committed to the Youth Development Center at Waynesburg. Appellant was released from Waynesburg on September 24, 1974, and placed on probation until March 25, 1975, in the custody of her mother.

On December 19, 1974, the appellant was arrested in Pittsburgh for soliciting a detective for prostitution and oral sodomy. After hearing, the lower court on February 4, 1975, adjudicated appellant delinquent and committed her to the State Correctional Institution at Muncy. By letter of February 6, 1975, the Office of the Attorney General advised the lower court that Muncy was an inappropriate place of commitment for a delinquent, as there is no facility at that prison for juveniles, and asked that the lower court modify its order. Appellant's attorney also filed a petition to vacate the order committing the appellant to Muncy. On February 10, 1975, the lower court denied this petition. The court also issued a rule against Bernard Malone, the superintendent of Muncy, to show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court for failing to accept appellant as an inmate at Muncy, and to provide a "separate facility" for her. From the order of February 4, and February 10, 1975, this appeal followed. As the Attorney General and the attorney for appellant agree that commitment of a juvenile delinquent to Muncy is illegal, both parties ask our Court to reverse the lower court's order.

[ 234 Pa. Super. Page 426]

The disposition of this case is governed by the Juvenile Act, § 25, 11 P.S. § 50-322,*fn1 which provides in relevant part that "[i]f the child is found to be a delinquent child the court may make any of the following orders of disposition best suited to his treatment, supervision, rehabilitation, and welfare: . . .

(3) Committing the child to an institution, youth development center, camp, or other facility for delinquent children operated under the direction or supervision of the court or other public authority and approved by the Department of Public Welfare.

(4) Committing the child to an institution operated by the Department of Public Welfare or special facility for children operated by the Department of Justice."

This provision must be read together with § 27 (a) of the Juvenile Act, 11 P.S. § 50-324(a), which provides that "[a] child shall not be committed or transferred to a penal institution or other facility used primarily for the execution of sentences of adults convicted of a crime, unless there is no other appropriate facility available, in which case the child shall be kept separate and apart from such adults at all times."

No argument has been made that Muncy is an institution or facility for delinquent children approved by the Department of Public Welfare. Muncy is a penitentiary operated by the Department of Justice, and it has no special facility for children.

Nevertheless, the lower court interpreted our decision in Commonwealth ex rel. Parker v. Patton, 225 Pa. Superior Ct. 217, 310 A.2d 414 (1973), as allowing a court to commit a juvenile to a prison for adults, at the same time ordering the prison authorities on pain of contempt to create a "separate facility" at that prison. It is thus necessary to consider the intent of our Court in deciding

[ 234 Pa. Super. Page 427]

In Commonwealth ex rel. Parker v. Patton, supra, at 220-221, 310 A.2d at 416, we noted that "[t]here is no doubt that Camp Hill plays a dual role -- one good and one bad. The good is found in the rehabilitation programs for juvenile delinquents and the bad in the intermingling of juveniles and adults convicted of crime. . . . Until the legislature comes to the rescue in this problem by providing for the establishment of separate institutions for each group, we are required to decide how best to accomplish the results intended by the requirements of Section 27. That section provides that where there are no other appropriate facilities available, a child should be kept separate and apart from such adults at all times, (contemplating thereby that juveniles must remain separated from adults while receiving all their needs, such as sleeping, resting, recreation, academic and vocational training). Therefore, in the absence of separate institutions for juvenile delinquents and adult criminals we direct Camp Hill Authorities to provide separate facilities for the needs of the two groups, or to provide for the separate use of the same facilities avoiding at all times any intermingling of the two groups." (Footnote omitted.) See also Commonwealth ex rel. Peterson v. Patton, 230 Pa. Superior Ct. 6, 326 A.2d 444 (1974).

It is therefore clear that our decision allowing the joint use of Camp Hill by adult and juvenile inmates rested on three factors: (1) There was no other suitable facility available for the juvenile inmates. (2) The joint use was an interim measure. (3) The juvenile inmates could be kept separate from the adult inmates, and at the same time receive a full recreational, academic, and vocational rehabilitative program.*fn2

[ 234 Pa. Super. Page 429]

All of the factors peculiar to Camp Hill are lacking at Muncy. "Muncy, both under the law and in actual practice, is a state penitentiary. . . . Its title indicates that it is a State Correctional Institution. The women sentenced to Muncy, invariably, are those who have been convicted of the most serious crimes. It is, in fact, the one institution in the state which is designed to accept women convicted of such crimes." Commonwealth v. Stauffer, 214 Pa. Superior Ct. 113, 117, 251 A.2d 718 (1969). On this basis, we held that an adult woman convicted of involuntary manslaughter, the sentence for which was simple

[ 234 Pa. Super. Page 430]

    imprisonment, could not be confined in Muncy. A fortiori, Muncy is an inappropriate place of commitment for a juvenile.*fn3 It is highly doubtful that a sixteen-year-old girl whose "actions, demeanor and words," in the opinion of the lower court, "point to the sophistication of an adult woman while her emotional and value systems are those of a rebellious and immature child" could benefit in any way from exposure to the most hardened adult female convicts in the Commonwealth.

It appears that the lower court's determination that the appellant could not be placed in a Youth Development Center operated by the Department of Public Welfare was based on the testimony of Susan Davis, who had been appellant's counselor at such an institution. The lower court stated in its opinion that "[t]estimony of [appellant's] counselor, [Miss] Davis, from Youth Development Center, Waynesburg, was to the effect that Susan would be a disruptive influence on the other girls at Waynesburg, she was too sophisticated and progressed far beyond the capacity of the program at Waynesburg, and that it would be an inappropriate placement at this time." Although Miss Davis stated that "initially, her adjustment was very poor, [a] very disruptive influence in the cottage," she noted that "when [appellant] returned to the Center approximately a year ago this spring, she was different. She was genuinely interested in a vocational type of career." Although at one point, Miss Davis indicated that she did not feel that the appellant could benefit further from the program of counseling and rehabilitation at Waynesburg, this statement was apparently based on her belief that appellant needed "intensive counseling." When asked whether placement at Muncy would be detrimental to appellant, Miss Davis stated that "[f]rom what I know of it -- from what I know of the

[ 234 Pa. Super. Page 431]

    program at Muncy, which is very little, I don't know if she would receive any type of therapy." Thus, while Miss Davis's testimony might have indicated that Waynesburg would not be the ideal placement for the appellant, it did not indicate that the Youth Development Center would refuse to accept the appellant, or that Muncy would in any way be a more appropriate placement.

The lower court allowed the appellant to be interviewed by one private institution, which refused to accept the appellant. Although the lower court considered the possibility of placing the appellant at Yoke Crest, it did not attempt to place appellant there. It therefore cannot be said that the lower court considered all possible facilities before deciding to commit the appellant to Muncy.*fn4

Nor does it appear that, given the problems posed by the appellant, Muncy would be a more appropriate placement than a youth development center. Despite appellant's history of delinquent behavior, it does not appear that she has ever committed any crime of violence or crime against property. Her delinquency has been limited to incorrigibility, running away, drug use, and acts of sexual promiscuity. The only apparent reason for placing the appellant in a prison rather than in a youth development center is her propensity for escapes. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth has noted in its brief that except for one unit, in which prisoners are locked in their cells almost twenty-four hours a day, "[n]o wall, fence or physical hindrance of any kind surrounds Muncy. . . . Thus an inmate like petitioner Haas with an evident penchant for

[ 234 Pa. Super. Page 432]

    escape could, if committed as an ordinary member of the population, as readily walk away from Muncy as Haas did from the Youth Development Center in Waynesburg."

Finally, the lower court's commitment of appellant to Muncy, combined with its order to keep her separate from the adult population in a prison where she is the only juvenile delinquent inmate, has placed her in a position where she cannot reasonably participate in any rehabilitative program. Appellant notes in her brief that "[i]n its commendable attempts to separate appellant from the adult population at Muncy, the officials there have had no choice but to place appellant in the hospital ward." Thus, appellant has been placed in a situation amounting almost to solitary confinement.

The State Correctional Institution at Muncy is not an "institution, youth development center, camp, or other facility for delinquents" as contemplated by § 25(3) of the Juvenile Act. Nor is it 'an institution operated by the Department of Public Welfare or special facility for children operated by the Department of Justice," as contemplated by § 25(4) of the Juvenile Act. Nor can we agree with the lower court that "no other appropriate facility" is available, or even that Muncy would in any case be an "appropriate facility" in which to confine the appellant. The orders committing the appellant to Muncy were therefore contrary to law, and must be vacated.*fn5

[ 234 Pa. Super. Page 433]

The orders of February 4, and February 10, 1975, are vacated. The lower court shall issue an order for the disposition of the appellant consistent with the Juvenile Act, § 25, 11 P.S. § 50-322, and this opinion.*fn6


Orders of February 4, and February 10, 1975, vacated.

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