Report ranks Tennessee one of top five for kids in state custody with COVID-19

    (Photo: Getty Images)
    (Photo: Getty Images)

    More than 1,800 children and teens involved in juvenile justice systems across the nation and in Puerto Rico have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, a report released Wednesday by The Sentencing Project has found.

    Tennessee is one of five states with the highest number of positive cases among kids in custody: 146 as of September 14, according to data provided to Tennessee Lookout by the state’s Department of Children’s Services. The Sentencing Project reports that only four other states have reported more than 100 cases: California Florida, Texas and Arizona.

    The data compiled by The Sentencing Project is incomplete — it comes from outbreaks reported by the media or public agencies in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Not all of these states release the data themselves.

    The Washington, D.C. based nonprofit, organization, which advocates for youth and adults involved in criminal and juvenile justice systems, is calling on states and the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to publish more detailed data on testing, outcomes, race and ethnicity of youth, and population counts by facilities.

    The report also calls on state child welfare officials and juvenile justice officials to limit admission to facilities to youth who pose an immediate and serious threat to their communities and only for youth who cannot be safely treated at home, release youth near the end of their treatment and to refrain from moving incarcerated youth between facilities.

    Its other recommendations include ensuring young people have regular communication with family and that youth isolated to prevent the spread of coronavirus are monitored by medical officials rather than security personnel.