Chapter 2. An Examination of the Prevalence of COVID-19 in the Texas Juvenile Justice System
Rachel J. Slover1 and Rebecca Fry2, PhD
1University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Gilling School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America
COVID-19 has posed a nationwide public health emergency, and one of the most at-risk yet concurrently overlooked populations in the United States has been youth in the juvenile justice system. In order to understand how to break the cycle of environmental health disparities faced by incarcerated youth, an examination was performed of the prevalence of COVID-19 in the juvenile justice system through a Texas case study – chosen due to the state’s large, incarcerated youth population, vulnerability to COVID-19, and transparency in data reporting. Data on demographics and COVID-19 case counts were gathered on Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) facilities to understand who comprises the at-risk population and the extent of that risk. The potential for community influence on facility vulnerability was examined through data from the NIEHS Pandemic Vulnerability Index (PVI) and data from the TJJD on staff COVID-19 case counts. Analysis found racial disparities between placement in high versus lower-security TJJD facilities and between the state and TJJD population compositions. Findings further demonstrated baseline TJJD county vulnerability, high COVID-19 case counts for incarcerated youth, likely disease vectors from the staff to the youth, and disparities in case counts between facilities. Further research should be conducted to assess the sources of the disparities and how to best inform methods to break the cycle of health disparities and strive for equitable youth justice.
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