Juveniles as young as 15 years old can get themselves deep in grown-up trouble in Pennsylvania and find themselves in prison for life, according to Deputy District Attorney George D. Mosee Jr.
And this happens to no small number of young Pennsylvanians, he said.
Twenty-five percent of all inmates serving life sentences in the United States for murders committed when they were juveniles are in Pennsylvania, Mosee stated. There are more than 500 such inmates in the commonwealth, said Mosee, the man in charge of prosecuting juveniles in Philadelphia.
There are urban myths about kids and crime, he said. Many juveniles believe they can’t be tried as adults or face adult consequences for murder and other serious crimes, he told Frankford residents at the March 27 meeting of Northeast EPIC Stakeholders. They and their families need to wise up, he said.
“Nobody understands juvenile justice,” Mosee said. “They don’t know how it works.”
He gave a few examples to residents gathered in the Second Baptist Church of Frankford, Mulberry and Meadow streets.
• A kid who assaults another and steals his bike won’t go to prison. He might get community service or time in a juvenile facility. If he does it a second time and if he’s 15 years old and adjudicated delinquent, the young criminal goes into the adult justice system.
• If he’s 15 and pulls a gun on somebody during a robbery, for example, he might be looking at five to 10 years in a prison for youthful offenders.
• If he’s 15 and is the lookout for somebody else committing an armed robbery, but he isn’t the person with the gun, he might not get mandatory prison time. The person with the gun is facing trial in the adult system. If the person with the gun is 18, he’s looking at 3.5 to seven years.
“Kids can get up to 47 years,” Mosee said.
• If the 15-year-old is an accomplice in a crime in which someone else kills somebody, he’s looking at life in prison, Mosee said.
The “old head” who enlisted the 15-year-old’s help told the kid that he would be sent to a juvenile facility if anything went wrong in the crime.
Mosee said the law recently recognized that young teens should be treated differently. Still, he said, instead of life, they have to be imprisoned for at least 35 years.
“If you’re 15 and you have to do 35 years, that is life,” he said. “I’m not talking about scaring anybody straight. I’m talking about educating them straight.”
Juvenile criminal records, Mosee said, can be expunged. The crimes, the mistakes, made by minors don’t have to follow through life, but records of those events don’t just disappear, he added. Five years after a juvenile completed supervision after he or she was judged delinquent, expungement can be applied for, Mosee said.
Northeast EPIC Stakeholders, which brings community members information about programs and news that affects their lives, has a new coordinator.
Nafisha Lewis has taken over for Charlene Lewis, who resigned. She had a pretty good turnout for her first meeting.
Frankford resident Leon Brantley gave a brief talk about the neighborhood’s rich history.
“Some members of the younger generations don’t know what went on here,” he said.
Eighteenth-century bread baker Cyrus Bustil is a good example of one of Frankford’s well-known sons, Brantley said.
The baker, who was of mixed white, African-American and Native-American blood, was loyal to the English crown — a Tory — before he became a rebel during the American Revolution, Brantley said.
The late Harry Silcox, who for years wrote about local history for the Northeast Times, said Bustil provided George Washington’s army with bread as it marched toward Trenton. It’s possible “Bustleton” was derived from the baker’s surname, Silcox had said.
Sister Sara Congo, who started a prayer service in Frankford in the 1800s, is an example of the African-American women who have been the strength of the community, Brantley said.
He added that he hoped clubs would form in Frankford to educate the public about the neighborhood’s long history and its residents’ contributions to the nation’s development.
Wrapping up the meeting, Jason Dawkins, who until recently had been an aide to City Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, introduced himself as a candidate for the 179th state House district seat now held by James Clay. The two will face each other in the May 20 Democratic Party primary.
Dawkins said public education could be funded by taxing natural gas drilling in upstate Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. Such taxes, he said, would generate $1 billion for education. ••