Amidst COVID-19 pandemic, parents and advocates push for a release of juvenile inmates

Like so many other Louisiana mothers with a child in juvenile detention, Latoyia Porter wants her 19-year-old son home with her during the pandemic. He’s already been jailed for five years for stealing a car, she said, and with the pandemic, she worries about his health.

“Treyjon’s had symptoms of COVID, has asked to be tested, but wasn’t,” Porter said. “It’s really hard for a mother not to be in control of her child’s healthcare.”

The Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, which was convened by Gov. John Bel Edwards to examine and help the state overcome racial disparities laid bare by COVID-19, agrees that children “in state custody who can return to the community safely should be sent home.” The task force urges “decarceration and controlled evacuation” under the oversight of a statewide independent public health monitor it says Edwards should appoint.

Shelina Davis, CEO of Louisiana Public Health Institute, co-chaired the task force’s subcommittee looking at prisons and jails. Davis said the subcommittee stopped short of suggesting a list of candidates for the special monitor, but she said, “Ideally we’d want a high level person who knows what safe working and living conditions should look like and that facilities should be in compliance with Center for Disease Control and OSHA guidelines—a public health monitor that can hold people accountable and ensure transparency.

“Is there a sense of urgency? One hundred percent,” she said.

Read the article at Louisiana Illuminator