The Senate must pass the updated HEROES Act to protect justice-involved youth

Aubrey Edwards-Luz,
senate building interior

In the few days left before senators head back to their states, they should immediately pass the updated HEROES Act, not only because families need it to survive, but also because it could spare children engaged in the juvenile justice system damage to their health, education and mental wellbeing.

Over 4,300 cases of COVID-19 have been identified among youth and staff in juvenile facilities. While youth are working on bettering themselves and learning how to navigate negative peer pressure and choose positive alternative behaviors, this invisible attack threatens their health. Placing youth in detention (which occurs before a youth has been found guilty of a delinquent act) and confining them (which happens after a youth is found guilty) before the pandemic already made them far less likely to attain a high school diploma or gain meaningful employment.

Detaining and confining youth during the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated health risks for kids who were already disadvantaged. Emerging research that links the virus with neurological side-effects in children suggests that the future functioning of youth in juvenile facilities is also at stake.

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