Media Contact

Sam Petto, ACLU of Nebraska Communications Director

March 19, 2020

Nebraska Correctional Youth Facilities. Image taken from:

LINCOLN, Neb. – Thursday, Nebraska advocacy organizations and individuals sent a cosigned letter to Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican and Court Administrator Corey Steele, urging planning and action to protect youth who are incarcerated and youth in congregate care group homes from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public health experts have warned that people who are in enclosed spaces are uniquely vulnerable to the outbreak. In Nebraska, that includes youth held in county juvenile detention facilities, Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers, and the Nebraska Correctional Facility for Youth. Youth in out-of-home congregate care group homes are also at increased risk.

The letter asks the Nebraska Supreme Court and Court Administration to craft and share an emergency plan addressing COVID-19 in the juvenile justice system.

Recommendations include 

  • Instructing judges and probation officers to immediately halt new admissions to juvenile detention and correctional facilities
  • Prioritizing and facilitating the removal of youth from these facilities whenever feasible.
  • Ensuring communication to youth on prevention, access to medical care, and access to community-based support.
  • Creating transitional plans for youth released from custody and congregate care to ensure continued access to housing, care and basic needs.
  • Reforming probation requirements to eliminate in-person meetings as much as possible and allow youth to travel to access medical care.

“As we all take steps to protect the health of ourselves, our families, and our neighbors, we can’t forget the most vulnerable among us," said Scout Richters, legal and policy counsel at the ACLU of Nebraska. "Youth who are incarcerated are especially at risk. In many ways, they don’t have the ability to protect themselves by following public health guidance. As this virus spreads, we need state leaders to step up and partner with experts to create a path forward for our youth in custody.”

The full letter is available for download online:

Cosigners include the ACLU of Nebraska, Voices for Children in Nebraska, Nebraska Appleseed, RISE Nebraska, and juvenile defense attorney Christine Henningsen.