Covid and Incarceration: Juvenile Facilities

Thanks to Josh Rovner, senior advocacy associate for The Sentencing Project, for sharing important background regarding Covid-19 in juvenile detention facilities and suggested actions for those concerned about health and developmental risks to incarcerated youth.

Segment begins near the top of the hour here (video link below) —

Nationally, facilities in DC and 37 states are actively affected by Covid-19 with roughly 1000 youth and 1000 adult staff cases reported, according to data obtained by The Sentencing Project. In addition to endangering those inside the facilities, Josh said, this threatens local communities as youth rotate in and out of custody, and as staff return home each night. Attempts to isolate students physically, for health reasons, often involve cutting off access to materials and services that should be available for rehabilitation and that could help students suffering an illness.

Josh urged those concerned about health and well-being of youth in detention to contact their local juvenile justice agency — it may be called “youth services” or some other euphemism — and ask how youth and staff health is being protected and how young people are receiving the services they need.

Discussion also focused on reductions in youth incarceration that have already taken place over the decades and more recent calls to find additional alternatives to incarceration. In addition, Josh described pandemic-specific reasons that less youth have been detained: for example, he said, fights between students are not treated as “simple assault,” as they would be if school-based law enforcement was involved. Changes in the “normal” pipeline to detention offer an opportunity to rethink supposed benefits of incarceration and look more thoroughly at alternatives.

To stay abreast of The Sentencing Project’s work, follow them on social media and/or sign up for their newsletter. Visit their website for fact sheets, regular reports, and action suggestions.

from The Sentencing Project website

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