An unfinished success story: the juvenile justice system during COVID-19

Past reforms reduced the number of youth incarcerated & helped prevent a large number of covid cases in youth detention, according to a new report from the Sentencing Project

We go to the Sentencing Project for this week’s report on incarcerated youth during the COVID-19 pandemic and how justice reforms reduced the number of youth behind bars — and why this could be a path to further changes in the juvenile justice system.

  • 1805 incarcerated youth had covid as of September 23, 2020.

  • 18 of the 27 facilities are privately run and 9 are public; public facilities have been more forthcoming about the infections in their institutions.

  • Visitation to these facilities stopped so the main reason for a rise in cases was through infected staff members.

  • Testing for youths in prison has not been comprehensive in most states so it is impossible to tell the full scope of infection.

  • Significant changes to the juvenile justice system since 2000 resulted in lower rates of youth incarceration and smaller, less crowded facilities.

  • The number of youths convicted of a crime who are placed in residential facilities has decreased by half since 1997.

  • This means that juvenile justice systems have been able to deal with the COVID-19 crisis in collective living spaces better than especially large or crowded facilities which became breeding grounds for the virus.

  • The declining rates coupled with the effects of the pandemic caused nearly 12 remaining juvenile halls to be closed.

The Sentencing Project offers more analysis of youth incarceration and the COVID-19 pandemic and provides recommendations to juvenile justice facilities.

Read the whole report here.

COVID-19 resources: State policy changesNewsBureau of Prisons updatesState court changesPrison holistic self care and protection.

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