COVID-19: Reducing the impact on vulnerable youth. 

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In recent weeks, a public health crisis has unfolded across our country which will require unprecedented actions to contain. As federal, state, and local governments plan their responses to COVID-19 and attempt to slow the spread of the virus, it is essential that we keep in mind the impact that this emergency may have on young people, including those who are at risk of becoming involved with the justice system, or who are already involved with the justice system, particularly those who are locked behind bars.

The pandemic and its potential impacts on our youth continue to change and evolve daily as states implement curfews, close schools, and require families to shelter in place. We are committed to helping our members identify and implement the best possible solutions to this complex situation. We are here to help, as states and communities navigate these uncharted waters and look for solutions that ensure that our young people and their communities are kept safe. This includes making sure that young people are not held unnecessarily in jails and detention centers, and that they are sent home whenever possible, with access to emergency supports such as housing, medical care, food, and other essential needs. 

To read our full statement on ways to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on youth who are involved in the juvenile justice system, or at risk of becoming involved in the justice system click here. We also put together FAQs based on a recent Twitter chat on COVID-19 and its impact on youth in the justice system. 

We are committed to helping juvenile justice providers identify solutions that keep our young people and their families safe. As part of this process, we co-hosted a webinar on March 17 to answer questions. We are also working with state providers to collect information about what’s happening in the field. Please also find here a Dropbox of documents, letters, and other resources related to COVID-19 to be used and shared.

We are working with members of Congress to ensure that any additional stimulus package includes our youth. We are calling on Congress to provide $100 million in funding to help states respond to the emergency needs of young people in the justice system and those who are at risk of coming into contact with the justice system. These funds will help support emergency responses in communities, provide medical testing and care for youth and staff at juvenile justice facilities, and ensure that young people have the technology needed to continue accessing probation and education in a socially distanced world.

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice is taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously. We are practicing social distancing ourselves as well, with staff working from home and limitations placed on travel. We recognize, however, the importance of continuing social connection and remain committed to making ourselves available for our members and allies during this critical time. As our National Chair, Pastor Edward Palmer recently stated in a message to our members, “Do not go into 'social isolation' which can lead to fear and depression. Use your technology to stay 'socially connected' and use your 'social capital' to help yourself, your friends, and your loved ones make it through this crisis.”