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CT Sees Major Drop in Youth Detention During Pandemic

The number of young people entering secure detention across the U.S. dropped by almost one-quarter in March 2020, and by 45% in Connecticut. (Chatiyanon/Adobe Stock)
The number of young people entering secure detention across the U.S. dropped by almost one-quarter in March 2020, and by 45% in Connecticut. (Chatiyanon/Adobe Stock)
April 27, 2020

HARTFORD, Ct. -- A new survey shows that across the country, the number of young people held in juvenile detention centers dropped by 24% in March during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Connecticut, the drop was even bigger.

The judicial branch is reporting a 45% reduction - from 79 young people in the state's two detention centers on March 1, down to 46. Abby Anderson, executive director with the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Strategy Alliance, said more kids are being diverted from secure detention. And she said she believes this should be the model going forward.

"But we really hope that we're seeing going forward that the number of kids who truly quote-unquote 'need' a secure environment is incredibly small," Anderson said.

Anderson said Connecticut has been working for 15 years to reduce the number of incarcerated youths, but has stepped up the pace during the pandemic. She said they placed as many young people as possible in alternative treatment programs to keep them out of detention, as clusters of COVID-19 infections popped up in prisons and jails in the state and nationwide.

Nate Balis, director of the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which conducted the survey, commended the sudden progress in the fight to rehabilitate more young people in community settings.

"Maybe we are finally really 'right-sizing' juvenile detention in this country," Balis said. "We could emerge from the pandemic with a detention population that truly is young people who pose an immediate community safety risk, rather than all kinds of young people who are not a risk to public safety."

The survey included data from youth detention centers in 30 states that are part of the Casey Foundation's Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CT