Community calls for action from state's juvenile justice system during COVID-19 pandemic

Monday, the Legal Rights Center partnered up with a diverse coalition of organizations in sending a letter to state and county officials, urging them to respond quickly to the threat that COVID-19 poses to youth involved in Minnesota's juvenile system. 

In their letter, community members express concern about the ability of juvenile facilities to effectively follow recommendations from public health experts and the lack of transparency from agencies about what steps they are taking to keep young people safe.

The letter was emailed to Gov. Tim Walz, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections Paul Schnell, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Lorie Skjerven Gildea, Minnesota House and Senate leadership, the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, the Minnesota Sheriffs' Association, and the Minnesota Chiefs of Police, according to a news release. 

A similar letter was sent to Hennepin County leadership including the director of Hennepin County Community Corrections and Rehabilitation, Catherine Johnson, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.

The Legal Rights Center's recommendations in the letter include:

  • Immediately halting new admissions to juvenile detention and correctional facilities
  • Immediately releasing youth from juvenile detention and correctional facilities who:
    • Can return to safe homes with community supports and supervision
    • Have COVID-19 symptoms or chronic/serious illnesses
    • Have scheduled releases within 90 days
  • Continued access to legal counsel, therapeutic treatments and education for youth who are awaiting release or who must remain in facilities
  • Ending blanket no-visitation policies, encouraging continued family visitation and the provision of unlimited, free phone calls and teleconferencing when visits aren't possible.
  • Eliminating incarceration as an option for technical violations of probation
  • Stopping custodial arrests for minor disciplinary issues and curfew violations
  • Increased transparency about plans for youth for the remainder of the pandemic

To view the full letter, click here.