#BisonInTheKnow: Coronavirus’ Impact on Incarcerated Youth

WASHINGTONKaren Kolivoski, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Howard University School of Social Work, is an expert in children and youth who are involved in the welfare and juvenile justice systems. Kolivoski joined #BisonInTheKnow to discuss coronavirus’ impact on children and young people housed in one of approximately 43,000 juvenile justice facilities in the United States. Watch the video here.

“Data are limited on the number of people who are being affected by the coronavirus,” said Kolivoski. “What we do know is that at least 55 youth have tested positive for COVID-19 in these facilities. These are young people in 12 states, including Washington, D.C.”

Kolivoski says that about 82 staff members in juvenile facilities have tested positive for COVID-19 in 23 states. According to the assistant professor, research shows that young people who have less involvement with the juvenile justice system have better outcomes.

“For many youth, it’s more likely that they’ll be safer and have these better outcomes if they were home versus being away from home, in out-of-home placements.”

Additionally, Kolivoski says many young people are in these facilities for low-level offenses that don’t pose a threat to public safety. 

“Many young people are in such placements because of things like status offenses, which includes running away or being in possession of alcohol. So, they are not a threat to public safety. At this moment, it’s more of a public health risk than a public safety risk.”

Kolivoski recommends stopping all new admissions to juvenile facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic to critically assess the system. She says individuals can play a role by becoming informed and educated about the population of children and young people who are interacting with the juvenile system, calling on the media to cover issues impacting this population, and asking state and local representatives to address their needs. 

For more information on these and related issues, follow the Howard University School of Social Work on Twitter @HU_socialwork.

# # #

About Howard University

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 11 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 70 Fulbright Scholars. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit

Media Contact: Misha Cornelius,