Reports on Youth Incarceration and Parents’ Insights During COVID-19
Two new reports on COVID-19 and the juvenile justice system were released at the annual conference of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice in 2022. Funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the respective studies discuss insights from families of youth in custody about COVID-19’s effects on their children and strategies for reducing the system’s reliance on youth incarceration during the pandemic.
Four national research and advocacy organizations — the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, Justice for Families, the Justice Policy Institute and the National Juvenile Justice Network — jointly developed and produced the two reports.
These studies and forthcoming publications from the collaborating organizations complement the Casey Foundation’s Youth Detention Survey During COVID-19, which assesses the effect of the pandemic on youth detention trends nationwide by capturing data in close to real time from a large number of jurisdictions.
Insights from Families
Summarizing the insights and recommendations of a diverse group of parents and caregivers, this report focuses on the experiences of youth in custody and their families during the pandemic. Among the challenges identified by parents: contact with families was severely disrupted for youth in secure facilities following the onset of COVID-19; facility communication with parents about their children’s health and whereabouts was poor; and some youth experienced longer periods of confinement because of pandemic-affected court processes.
The participating parents provided several recommendations for better support of youth in custody and their families, including:
- create a family liaison in youth facilities to manage communication with families;
- prioritize in-person visitation and creative thinking to ensure that youth see caregivers and others; and
- increase medical personnel in facilities to ensure continuity in administering medication and access to high-quality medical care.
Youth Incarceration During the Pandemic
A “sneak peek” at findings from a more detailed study to follow, this report examines five jurisdictions’ effective strategies for reducing youth incarceration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recommended strategies include:
- expanding diversion eligibility and programming to shrink the flow of youth into the justice system;
- keeping court cases moving to limit backlog and prevent youth from getting “stuck” in detention; and
- safely expediting release from detention and commitment placements.
The report also explores challenges faced by the five jurisdictions — for example, reducing isolation and increasing supports for young people in institutional settings; expanding alternatives to detention for youth in conflict with their families; and implementing strategies to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in youth incarceration.