Positive COVID-19 test for youth at juvenile detention center sparks alarm among lawyers and advocates

Originally published by Chicago Tribune, Annie Sweeney on 07/04/2020


A 16-year-old juvenile held in detention in Cook County, Illinois has tested positive for the Coronavirus. A number of juveniles are being released on electronic monitoring as part of an expedited review process and in cases where release was not granted, reconsideration of detention is now being requested. In addition to concerns over juveniles contracting the virus, attorneys and advocates are worried about the mental health of the juveniles as they are increasingly isolated by CDC restrictions. Visitation, school attendance and in-person programming have all been canceled. Attorneys and advocates have requested an increase in the pace of court reviews and for more releases and have asked for any possible release options. Chief Judge Timothy Evans of the Illinois Supreme Court has responded indicating the number of detained has dropped from 210 down to 170; and, alerted to the fact that some youth have no home or no suitable home in which to be released. Judge Evans has written to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to see if they could expedite placement. A new policy requires that juveniles admitted to the facility stay in a receiving area for 14 days before being moved to the general population, officials have said. New admissions are screened for COVID-19 exposure; anyone who says they may have been exposed, or who has a fever, will not enter the facility “until medical clearance is granted,” according to the news release from the chief judge.

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