The coronavirus pandemic has impacted every area of our lives. One area of concern is how this pandemic has impacted the juvenile justice system, particularly when it comes to juvenile detention facilities.
Federal and state laws direct these facilities to focus on rehabilitation not punishment. Unfortunately, efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 have led to an environment within these juvenile detention centers that is much more similar to adult prisons. Teens are spending more time alone in their cells. They are often taking their meals while in confinement and talking to other teens under the doors. Facilities are cancelling family visits and their only interaction often involves essential employees. These essential employees are adults that are basically serving as guards.
Many of these youth are awaiting trials and not yet convicted of a crime. Since the pandemic has led to the closure of many courts, these wait times are extending long beyond the usual. As noted in a recent report by The Marshall Project, a non-profit that focuses on issues within the criminal justice system, this puts these kids in a situation that threatens not just their physical health and concerns of exposure to the virus, but also their mental health. The American Academy of Pediatrics have stated that this is its own health emergency.
This is yet another reason for those who are currently facing allegations that may result in time within a juvenile detention center to take the allegations seriously. Do not take a deal and hope everything will just go away. Instead, seek legal counsel to discuss your options and better ensure your legal rights are protected.