COVID-19 outbreak strikes Ohio juvenile detention center

Of the 27 staff members who tested positive, 20 are corrections officers, five are managers and two are crisis counselors

By John Futty
The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Ohio — COVID-19 has struck the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center, with 27 staff members and 14 youths testing positive for the virus as of Monday. Tests results were still pending for more than 30 other youths being held in the Downtown facility.

The numbers were released by Juvenile Court Administrative Judge Kim A. Browne, who said they will be posted Tuesday morning on the court's website, and updated as additional test results are received.

Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center. (Photo/ via TNS)
Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center. (Photo/ via TNS)

None of the staff members or juveniles have been sick enough to require hospitalization, and many had no symptoms, she said. The facility's medical staff is caring for the youths.

Of the staff members who tested positive, 20 are corrections officers, known as intervention specialists, five are managers and two are crisis counselors.

The maximum-security facility employs 98 intervention specialists, but the absences due to COVID-19 haven't caused a staffing problem, Browne said, because several other staffers have experience in that job and have volunteered to fill in.

The court instituted testing for all staff members and incarcerated juveniles last week after two intervention specialists tested positive, she said.

On Friday, a Juvenile Court magistrate conducted hearings for 13 youths who are considered "possible candidates" to be released on house arrest with electronic monitoring to reduce the detention center population, Browne said.

No decisions had been made about any of those youths as of Monday, she said.

The county's Juvenile Court has worked for the past decade to find alternatives to incarceration for all but the most serious youthful offenders, which makes it tough to find anyone confined at the detention center now who doesn't need to be there, Browne and Lead Juvenile Court Judge Elizabeth Gill said last month.

The 132-bed facility typically houses between 50 and 60 youths who are charged with delinquency offenses that would be high-level felonies if committed by adults.

A law-enforcement source told The Dispatch that the detention center population includes eight youths being held on delinquency charges of murder, attempted murder or reckless homicide; 12 for aggravated robbery or robbery; and four for rape or gross sexual imposition.

All of the youths in the facility have their own rooms, creating social distancing not available in most adult jails.

All are being quarantined in their rooms until the testing is complete, Browne said, and then those who test positive will be kept separate from those who test negative.

Weeks ago, the court's judges instituted policies aimed at preventing an outbreak in the facility, including prohibiting visitors and eliminating communal meals.

A system is in place to allow video conversations between the youths and their parents, guardians and attorneys, Browne said.


©2020 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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