Wayne County officials have lifted a COVID-19 quarantine they say forced them to confine youths to their rooms at the juvenile jail for up to 10 days in recent weeks, a move that upset some parents and advocates.
A county spokesperson said Thursday the last youth left quarantine at the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility on Monday and that a total of 14 cases were confirmed and three were probable.
Even those boys who have potentially been exposed to the virus were confined to their rooms for days without showers or recreation recreation “out of an abundance of caution,” county officials had said.
“We were able to contain the outbreak and limit further spread by taking the measures,” Tiffani Jackson, a spokesperson for Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, wrote in a text to the Free Press.
The outbreak, which began in late December, affected the facility’s male units, which housed 118 boys as of earlier this week.
Keeping juveniles in their rooms for long periods of time has been a persistent complaint from parents, youths and advocates even before last month’s outbreak. Lengthy confinement can hurt kids’ mental health, experts say, and national standards recommend no more than four hours daily during non-sleeping hours.
An ongoing Free Press investigation previously found complaints that youths were denied basic care, including daily showers, recreation, medication and education. County officials have said they’ve struggled with overcrowding and understaffing at the facility, which asked for and received permission from the state health department to bend lockdown and staffing rules.
Parents told the Free Press they were worried about their children after not getting phone calls or visits in several weeks and a youth advocate said he was “deeply concerned” about the long confinements.
When not in quarantine, county officials have said the juveniles are getting out of their rooms a minimum of two hours a day, depending on staffing levels.
Jackson said Thursday that Capstone Academy, the charter school contracted to educate the youths, has resumed teaching youth in-person. Teachers had been absent since at least fall because of a contract issue.
“The youth will receive instruction in the designated instructional spaces in the building,” Capstone’s Superintendent Monica Martin, said in an email to the Free Press last week.
Youths are offered a variety of classes including English language arts, math, science, Spanish, social studies, physical education, health and art, Martin said.
The county relocated juveniles to a former adult jail in the city of Hamtramck, the William Dickerson Detention Facility, in late October to improve safety conditions after youths were able to break out of their rooms.
Teachers have been absent from Dickerson because Capstone wasn’t authorized to work in Hamtramck until late December. Instead youths for weeks were given packets of worksheets to complete on their own, the Free Press has reported.
Contact Christine MacDonald: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-418-2149. Follow her on Twitter: @cmacfreep.