After an initial burst, the rush to release people from jail — except, apparently, friends of President Donald Trump — amid the coronavirus pandemic has slowed. And as a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation reveals, that’s particularly true among young people, and especially true when it comes to Black youth.
The report finds that after an increase in releases in March, young people were less likely to be released from detention in April and May. And while the population of detained young people has decreased by 27% since the pandemic began, the population nonetheless grew slightly in May.
In fact, “one of every three young people in detention on June 1 would not have been in detention if the release rate had stayed at its March level,” the report concluded.
And while “admissions among Black youth actually fell a bit more than admissions among white youth, Black youth continued to be overrepresented in detention because the widening gap in the release rate is larger than any gains on the admissions side,” the report also finds.
“These data demonstrate how critical it is for juvenile justice systems not only to keep young people out of detention facilities but also to act with urgency to get young people out,” Nate Balis, the director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, said in a blog post about the report. “A more equitable youth justice system requires intense focus on releasing Black youth from detention.”
Some of the report’s other, key findings:
“Juvenile justice systems had increasing difficulty releasing young people who were detained.
“Disparities in admissions improved for African American youth when the juvenile justice system had a smaller footprint.
“Disparities in release rates that disadvantage Black youth grew, which led to lower overall population declines for Black youth than for white youth.”
More on Black youth incarceration:
“White youth in detention continued to be more likely to be released than African American youth. Before COVID-19, the white release rate was about 7 percent higher than the African American release rate,” the report found. “By May 2020 it was 17 percent higher, meaning the gap had more than doubled in size. The widening gap meant white youth experienced a larger population drop than African American youth despite African American gains in admissions. The population decline between March 1 and June 1 was 30% for white youth and 27% for African American youth.”
As The Appeal notes in its own story about the report, “Locking kids up was dangerous before the pandemic, the report notes — confinement exacerbates existing health issues, disrupts schooling and can trap kids in a cycle of incarceration. But COVID-19 has made youth confinement even more dangerous. ”