A second person at the Hartford Juvenile Detention Center has tested positive for COVID-19 but this time it’s a juvenile, Judicial Branch officials confirmed late Sunday.
An officer at the detention center tested positive for the virus earlier this week, officials said.
The juvenile was tested Monday, but officials did not release any information as to when they were notified that the test came back positive. The juvenile is asymptomatic, according to Judicial Branch Executive Director of External Affairs Melissa Farley. The child’s guardian has been notified.
“Any juvenile who is deemed by our medical director to be at risk for spreading the virus, is promptly quarantined,” Farley said.
“We are being advised by our director of medical services to ‘temporarily close new admissions’ to the Hartford Juvenile Detention.”
Police departments will be notified Monday to bring any juveniles taken into custody to the juvenile detention center in Bridgeport.
At least two union officials who represent juvenile detention officers and juvenile probation officers expressed concerns about the juvenile detention centers as the COVID-19 pandemic races through Connecticut. Nearly 2000 people have tested positive for the virus as of Sunday and there have been 34 COVID-19-related deaths in the state.
The detention centers house juveniles who have either been adjudicated as a juvenile and are on probation, or who are awaiting adjudication.
A full complement of staff has been allowed to remain in the building, said Ron Nelson, president of AFSCME Local 749 which represents juvenile probation officers.
“There are too many staff in the building in this time,” Nelson said. “This is a time when you should be looking at restricting access.”
Nelson also thought that the total number of juveniles held at the detention centers should be reduced.
“They should consider closing both of the detention centers, or at least keep looking at closing them,” said Mike Barry, a juvenile probation officer who is the president of the Judicial Professional Employees union which represents 1,400 Judicial Branch employees.
“I know the Branch is looking at a difficult decision,” Barry said. “In a facility like that, it’s very difficult to social distance. I know this isn’t an easy decision to make.”
Advocates have been calling for information and a release of the juveniles before the virus starts to spread through the detention centers.
Judicial Branch officials released 14 juveniles held for pre-trial proceedings last week and a total of 28 juveniles since Feb. 28. Another 64 are in custody at the two detention centers. The Judicial Branch Court Support Services Division is also responsible for 38 youths who are in residential treatment programs throughout the state and another 11 teens are in Department of Children and Families residential programs.
The juveniles who are being held for pre-trial proceedings must appear before a judge every seven days, which has facilitated the release of 28 back into the community in the past month.
But some of the juveniles held at the detention centers are there on probation after their case has been adjudicated. Those juveniles do not have the opportunity to appear before a judge on a weekly basis. The average length of stay at a detention center for a juvenile on probation is six to nine months, Barry said.
“Some have committed serious crimes,” Barry said. “I know that this is such a difficult decision, I don’t envy the Judicial Branch at all.”