Meagan Corrado, a Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research lecturer, is developing a curriculum for Philadelphia law enforcement as the city undertakes an innovative project to revamp the way juveniles interact with the city's criminal justice system.
With funding from the 2018 Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, Corrado and her colleagues are working to establish a “trauma-informed” approach to the system.
From a recent Bloomberg Cities article on the initiative:
But what does “trauma-informed” mean? In Philadelphia’s project, it means dealing directly but sensitively with a troubling fact: About nine in ten youth entering the justice system have experienced trauma in their lives—such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, or violence—and often several of them. The idea is to identify ways to help these young people feel safe and supported on a path to recovery, and to make sure they’re not re-traumatized by the stress of a police encounter or a degrading arrest procedure.
Eventually, Philadelphia expects to build a separate intake center for juveniles, to create a more child-friendly environment than is typically found at police stations. There, youth will interact with social workers who are trained to support youth in times of crisis, in a setting that young people played an active role in prototyping and testing.
Corrado first got involved with the project in June of 2018 as a consultant during its piloting phase. She’s currently finalizing the training on trauma and youth development (video content, police interviews, youth interviews, activities, discussion prompts, and group discussions). Once the training material has been finalized, she will facilitate several trainings with Philadelphia police and will then pass the materials along to trainers at the police academy. She will also be providing ongoing consultation to the team as they apply a trauma-informed approach to the policies and procedures associated with the project and develop a trauma-informed space plan.
“The majority of youth entering the justice system have already experienced trauma,” says Corrado. “The juvenile justice system may expose youth to even more trauma—whether from the stress of confinement or from the perpetration of abuse at the hands of peers or staff. A trauma-informed approach will help reduce the risk of youth re-traumatization by equipping staff and officers to support youth in safe, respectful ways.”