Mayor Nutter and a host of city officials cut the ribbon on the new $110 million Juvenile Justice Services Center in West Philly on Thursday, capping off an effort to close and replace the troubled Youth Study Center that took more than a decade.
The polished new building, with its "healing garden," quad, smart boards and other amenities, is "just like a college campus," said Marq Temple, executive director of the center, while giving a tour to the media.
"Our kids deserve the best," an emotional Temple said. "You can't get them on the right track by putting them in some run-down place."
The detention center, on a five-acre plot at 48th Street and Haverford Avenue, will primarily house kids 13-20 who have been charged with a serious juvenile offense are awaiting trial. It's designed for 150 kids and will begin taking residents in late January or February.
A usual detention stay is 1 to 12 days, Temple said, but some juveniles will be there for up to about 120 days if their case drags on.
A handful of protesters chanted outside the ribbon-cutting ceremony and held signs reading, "Schools not jails."
"The city's priorities are horrifying," said Tim Dunn, 52, who lives in West Philly. "Millions of dollars are being cut from schools, and they're celebrating a youth prison."
Nutter commented on the protesters during his remarks and emphasized that the detention center will have educational services managed by the Philadelphia School District.
"Everybody wants service for different constituencies; they just don't want it anywhere near them," Nutter said. "These are our children."