WCA pushes to protect Justice-involved Youth in Westchester against COVID-19
For the past 7 years, WCA has been actively and passionately advocating for youth justice in Westchester and across New York State and as the COVID-9 pandemic strengthens in New York we have spoken up even more for this vulnerable group. Justice-involved youth are at higher risk of contracting the novel Coronavirus and suffering severe symptoms due to their lack of free movement and congested living quarters. We, along with our partners, have been doing all we can to ensure the safety of these young people and to educate you, our supporters, about the ways we can protect them and our communities.
WCA is the Westchester Lead for the Raise the Age NY Coalition for Youth Justice, and contributed to the Coalition’s COVID-19 Statement on March 19th calling for an immediate end to new incarceration of youth and the release of current youth from confinement. In line with best practices, the statement called for special consideration for the release of youth with underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19, as well as daily access to videoconferences for youth who remain confined to connect with their families while visitation is suspended.
On April 7th, we also signed on to another Raise the Age NY Coalition Letter to Governor Cuomo that urges him to release as many young people as possible from confinement, stop mandatory arrests for youth for all but the most serious charges, and not to target young people with harsh policing policies during the PAUSE Executive Order.
Recently, WCA reached out to Westchester County Probation Department and Woodfield Cottage Youth Detention Center in Valhalla for an update on how they are handling COVID-19. We learned that measures are in place in accordance with NYS to prevent, detect, and respond to COVID-19 issues in a timely manner. Woodfield Cottage has undergone a deep cleaning and continues to be rigorously disinfected daily while it remains in quarantine. Additionally, all youth in the facility have been tested, provided with personal protective equipment, and are medically monitored twice a day. All guardians of youth who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been notified and supported. Youth at Woodfield have been using video conferencing and telephone calls to stay in touch with family and have access to counseling about the virus and increased isolation.
We are encouraged to hear from partners at Woodfield that measures are being taken but know more needs to be done to reduce the number of young people housed there and protect the staff who support them.
Photo Credit: Youth First
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