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."