At Baltimore Detention Center, Youth With COVID-19 Are Held In Isolation

A youth resident’s room at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center.
Credit: Maryland Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit

At least three staff members and four youth residents are confirmed to have COVID-19 at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, a state detention center whose current residents range from 13 to 18 years old. As a result, many of the youth are either quarantined in their housing units or, if they are confirmed to have the virus, isolated in their rooms.

When youth arrive at a detention center for the first time, or are believed to have had contact with someone who is infected, they are quarantined in a housing unit for up to 14 days.

Youth who test positive for COVID-19 then go into “medical isolation.”

“Medical isolation means that a person needs to stay physically separated from others,” Maryland Department of Juvenile Services spokesman Eric Solomon said in a written statement. “For youth, they remain in their room and have access to a bathroom with a shower. If they are well enough and if cleared by the medical director, they are also allowed to go outside.”

Solomon said medical isolation typically lasts for at least 10 days. While there, the youth may have access to a phone to call parents or lawyers, electronic games or a Nook for reading books.

According to Jenny Egan, chief attorney in the juvenile division for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore, which represents many clients at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, medical isolation is a painful experience for the children she represents.

“That child has been told that they are sick with what they have learned about to be a brutal and sometimes deadly disease, and then are locked in a cell 23 to 24 hours a day,” she said. “This is even more concerning for us in that the majority of our clients have a diagnosed mental illness and lots of them — some estimates are up to half — are cognitively limited.”

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