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Juvenile detention populations decrease due to COVID-19

Florida has put a priority on lowering the number of youthful offenders sent to juvenile detention facilities. (MGN)
Florida has put a priority on lowering the number of youthful offenders sent to juvenile detention facilities. (MGN)(WJHG)
Published: May. 27, 2020 at 9:42 PM CDT
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There has been an unexpected consequence of COVID-19.

Populations at juvenile detention centers decreased significantly across the nation according to a new survey.

Florida has also put a priority on lowering the number of youthful offenders sent to such facilities.

The Department of Juvenile Justice has encouraged prosecutors, law enforcement and judges to seek alternatives to detention facilities for low risk youthful offenders in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Florida Police Chiefs Association President Kenneth Albano told us officers are taking the crisis seriously.

"We're doing everything we can to help our adults and our juveniles to come through the crisis of COVID-19 without the additional burden, where absolutely possible, of being actually introduced into secure detention,” said Albano.

The survey measured juvenile detention facility populations across 30 states.

It found a 24 percent nationwide decrease in the month of March alone.

Mary Marx, President of the PACE Center for Girls hopes to see the trend continue.

"If we're not committing those kids to detention because we're concerned for their health and safety, once this pandemic is over, why can't we continue those practices?” said Marx.

Over the past decade, Florida has seen dramatic improvement in its juvenile justice system.

Civil citations have increased and millions of dollars have been funneled into diversion programs.

And Marx said funding those programs is pivotal going forward.

“I think this is going to be particularly challenging as we enter the next budget year and what that state budget is going to look like,” said Marx.

And while efforts to decrease youthful offenders in detention facilities have been successful, COVID-19 cases have been documented.

There are 31 juveniles in Florida’s facilities who have tested positive.

Nationwide 488 juveniles in detention families have tested positive for the virus.

Six percent are in Florida.

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