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The response from states to release juveniles from detention centers during the COVID-19 pandemic has been met with resistance. The New York Times published an article this week, ‘Pacing and Praying’: Jailed Youths Seek Release as Virus Spreads. Sandy Santana, Executive Director of Children’s Rights, issues a response to the conditions and adverse health risk youth face under confinement:

“It’s heart-wrenching to hear the stories of young people detained in close quarters in the middle of a public health crisis, putting them at greater risk of infection. The confusion and dread this pandemic is causing have put children in the eye of the storm. Children do not belong in detention facilities, especially during a pandemic. Overwhelming evidence shows that group confinement causes harm to young people’s mental health and development, often leaving them in worse condition than when they entered. Attempting to isolate them further only exacerbates the fear and anxiety many young people in detention experience, and the prospect of contracting COVID-19 adds to their trauma. History also tells us that abuse in institutions runs deep. We need to fight just as hard to make sure in times of crisis states do not relax core safety standards that protect kids. Just as adults in government custody must be allowed to safely social distance, so too must all detention facilities, jails, foster care group homes, and other institutions move the young people in their care to healthier living conditions.”

COVID-19: Putting Children First

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