Justice For Youth Is The Antidote

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Artwork courtesy of Bill Dee, CIYP

#JusticeForYouth #IsTheAntidote is RISE for Youth’s call for a juvenile justice policy response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Incarcerated populations have been identified as ‘at highest risk for infection’ during the COVID-19 Pandemic. RISE for Youth continues to advocate for the transformation of the juvenile justice system and we are concerned for the health, safety, and rights of residents of the Bon-Air Juvenile Correctional Center, and all young people in detention centers across Virginia.

We are therefore, calling for a comprehensive policy response from the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). We are pleased to be in dialogue with the DJJ and to know that some of the recommendations outlined below have already been enacted. However, we are concerned that others have not. We also recognize that not every policy or practice outlined can be enacted by DJJ alone; there must be support and coordination from localities, the courts, and in some cases State and Federal Government. In those instances we urge DJJ to advocate for the appropriate actions from the respective stakeholders; and RISE for Youth is committed to supporting their advocacy efforts. Because our response to this public health emergency must be to act in the best interest of ALL young people. Please take the time to review the policy responses we are calling for.

1. Immediately halt as many new admissions to juvenile detention and correctional facilities as possible and initiate the appropriate release of youth from juvenile detention and correctional facilities by:

a. Examining all pre- and post-adjudication release processes and mechanisms and employing these processes as quickly and as liberally as possible. b. Release to appropriate medical care facilities or other safe living environments youth who have COVID-19 symptoms, chronic illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes, or who are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 due to other illnesses. c. Eliminate the use of detention or incarceration for youth unless a determination is made that a youth presents a substantial safety risk to others or to the community.

2. While youth are awaiting release:

a. Provide written and verbal communications to youth regarding Covid-19, provide access to COVID-19 testing and healthcare. b. Ensure continued access to education. c. Ensure confidential access to legal counsel through in person visits or teleconferencing. d. Ensure liberal access to family and support networks through open phone access.

3. Create appropriate transitional plans for youth released from custody to:

a. Confirm youth have a safe and adequate place to live. b. Ensure young people’s basic needs are met. c. Ensure immediate & adequate medical care is provided. d. Ensure immediate access to Medicaid.

4. For youth on probation:

a. Eliminate incarceration as an option for technical violations of probation. b. Allow youth to travel and access medical care, stay isolated when necessary, and take care of themselves and their loved ones without fear of probation violation. c. Eliminate requirements for in-person meetings with their probation officers. d. Place a moratorium on all requirements to attend and pay for court and Probation ordered programs, community service and labor.

5. Create an immediate moratorium on the assessment and collection of all fines and fees in the juvenile legal system for the duration of this public health and economic crisis to address the economic instability exacerbated by COVID-19.

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Our work centers the voices of impacted youth and communities and challenges racial injustice in Virginia.

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