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Michael Schlossman Lead Research Analyst at the Institute, presented at the monthly CJaE Meeting

Michael Schlossman, Lead Research Analyst at the Institute for Innovation & Innovation, presented at the monthly CJaE Meeting on February 26, 2023.

Dr. Schlossman’s research talk, “Turning a “Social Vogue into a Cultural Commitment” to Youth: Juvenile Justice Activism in 1970s-Era Pennsylvania“ described the evolution of juvenile justice activism in Pennsylvania through the trajectory of a Jewish woman named Barbara Fruchter, who taught English classes at Temple University and was getting her master’s degree, went on a tour, along with her sister, of the Mongomery County juvenile detention center and was horrified by what she saw. This set them on a path from concerned constituent to professional activism that shaped the field of juvenile justice reform. They started the Montgomery County Commission on Juvenile Justice, held public meetings and successfully pressured county officials to offer recreational programming and hire counselors rather than moonlighting prison guards (among other changes). She and her sister then formed the Juvenile Justice Center of PA and they worked with local women’s clubs, religious groups (I imagine the Quakers were involved but I’ll have to check), and civic organizations throughout the state. Gov. Milton Shapp was also Jewish and from your area and he and Fruchter knew each other—and he was a serious social reformer who was trying to deinstitutionalize the mental health system. Fruchter wrote the language for and helped galvanize support for two major pieces of legislation that are still on the books (e.g., a law that reimbursed counties a higher percentage for using community-based services than institutional programs). For a few years, JJC citizen volunteers were became part of the state inspection teams that visited facilities for court-committed youth.

Dr. Schlossman’s research presentation was followed by CJaE members engagement with his findings to reflect of the role of individuals, professionals, policymakers and community organization in social change work, windows of opportunity within the trajectory of social movements, the importance of research on historical activism and the political and social context for social change.



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