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Number of Youths in Detention Almost Back Up To Pre-COVID Level

A month­ly sur­vey of youth jus­tice agen­cies by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion found that the dramatic drop in youth deten­tion that accom­pa­nied the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic has evap­o­rat­ed. After dropping as much as 30 percent in the first few months of the pandemic, the number of youth in juvenile detention had risen almost to its pre-pandemic average as of June 1. For black youth, the number detailed was up six percent. In total, the June fig­ures rep­re­sent an increase of more than 40 percent since Jan­u­ary 2021 and 17 percent just since the start of 2022.

Although the youth deten­tion pop­u­la­tion is now sim­i­lar in size to what it was before the pan­dem­ic, sig­nif­i­cant and con­cern­ing changes have occurred beneath the surface, the foundation says. The disproportionate use of detention for black youths, already high before the pandemic, has increased. Detention stays have grown longer. Places with similar patterns of detention use before COVID-19 began have adopted dramatically different patterns. The one-third of sur­vey sites that have reduced deten­tion the most have sus­tained a 37 reduction from their pre-pan­dem­ic aver­age. In con­trast, the one-third of sites that have increased deten­tion the most have seen a 56 percent increase, all of which has occurred in the past 13 months. Casey says "these find­ings raise alarms for the well-being of thou­sands of young peo­ple and chal­lenge juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems across the coun­try to detain young peo­ple as a last resort."


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