Juvenile Center New COVID-19 Hotspot

Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Department of Juvenile Justice has announced that 25 juvenile offenders have tested positive for COVID-19.  That is 12.5% of the population of 200 housed at the Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in Chesterfield County.

The announcement was made only after advocates for juveniles cited reports of numerous offenders in the facility as having tested positive.

The agency announced last week that one juvenile had announced positive. That announcement was obviously misleading, if not downright false. The medical director of the facility stated that 13 of those who had tested positive “have already been released from medical isolation per Virginia Department of Health (VDH) guidelines.” Those guidelines recommend a two-week quarantine. Obviously, at least those 13 had tested positive more than two weeks ago, but the agency neglected to include them in its earlier report.

There are two good aspects of the situation. First is that, according to the medical director, 21 of those testing positive have not shown any “outward” symptoms. The remaining four “had symptoms that were no more severe than a cold or flu.” Secondly, the agency can be commended for taking aggressive action after the first offender tested positive. In the beginning, they had been screening offenders, including taking their temperatures. Any offender with a fever of 100.3 degrees or higher was tested, per the CDC guidelines. After the first positive test, they went to twice-daily screenings and testing those with a fever between 99 and 100 degrees. According to the nurse manager, that is when more positive cases began to show up.

What cannot be condoned is the lack of transparency. Valerie Boykin, the agency director, explained the secrecy as being necessary to “protect the privacy of our underage residents.” That is nonsense. Releasing the number of inmates testing positive would not have jeopardized the privacy of any individual juvenile. Besides, she now says, “As the number of cases has risen, DJJ believes the privacy of individual residents can be protected.”

Likely, not wanting to add ammunition to the general clamor by many advocacy groups to release incarcerated juveniles in the face of the pandemic was the reason for not reporting the number of juvenile offenders testing positive.

I do not know whether Boykin’s superiors, the Secretary of Public Safety and the Governor, knew that a large number of juvenile offenders had tested positive. If they were not informed, she should be fired. If they had been informed, they need to be held to account.

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19 responses to “Juvenile Center New COVID-19 Hotspot

  1. Seems that there are some downsides to “shelter in place” strategies. Closed, densely populated spaces increase the likelihood of infectious spread. Hard to think of a more “locked down” facility than a correctional facility.

  2. Maybe a solution is to release at least some non-violent offenders to the custody of those clamoring for the release of those offenders with the clear expectation that the individual(s) or organization is financially responsible for any actions of the juvenile for the original term of the offender’s sentence or order of confinement. Put some skin in the game of virtue-signaling and turn it into a real social commitment and program.

  3. First, don’t ignore the key fact here. Somebody lied. Government….lied. What else is a lie? We know a local Richmond nursing home lied, and the state is protecting nursing home data. At this point very little is trustworthy. That is the point of this story. We have zero, zero confidence in what we are being told.

  4. Except for the “99% of scientists and politicians” and the “Northam worshipping” constituencies here.

    • Dick has not been among those seeking a club to use on the Guv. So his outrage has more impact.

      • Agreed! However, that should not diminish the insight of people who have questioned Northam’s honesty from the beginning. Northam has a longstanding public track record of lying when it suits his purposes. Recognizing that is not having an ax to grind.

    • That is true, but DOC has been upfront in reporting it from the beginning, and I have relayed those reports here, although I have not always broken down the numbers by facility. The media just has not highlighted it.

  5. The Chickahominy Health Dsitrict, which includes Goochland, is a llttile vague on the criteria it uses for inclusion in its numbers. For instance, one offender at VCCW reportedly passed away last week at MCV. When the VDH was reporting deaths by health district, which seems to have stopped, no deaths were indicated for the CHD. The current “count for the Virginia Correctional Center for Women and related DOC facilities in Goochland is 20 offenders tested positive, 4 hospitalized, 1 death and 36 positive tests for staff, who may or may not live in Goochland. CHD reports that there are 55 cases in Goochland, but no indication how many of those are not associated with DOC, or how many staff members who test positive may be hospitalized.

  6. Yep, this is a problem and one can see what happens when someone in charge is put between a rock and a hard place on being transparent.

    It’s sorta like the Captain of the Roosevelt, he was supposed to “handle it” , and when he pushed it up the ladder and no one responded, he went public and got whacked.

    Did the Roosevelt end up better off. Nope…. it was as bad
    as the Captain said it was and now the Navy is scrambling

    Let me give another real world example.

    Should the public be told when a worker tests positive in a specific grocery store?

    think about it. what happens if the public is told? That store essentially gets closed and everyone gloms on to the other stores. Then one of them gets that positive test and the public is told and they lose a ton of customers who then go to the remaining stores… etc, etc…

    what’s the right thing to do?

    I’m NOT forgiving DJJ but I do wonder who would do that role and what the consequences are to them if they do not “handle it”? Who does DJJ report to?

    • First of all, the RTD does report specific grocery stores that have had workers test positive. One of those was one I frequent. I have not noticed any fewer customers in that store.

      I am confused about your comment/question on DJJ. It would be the responsibility to report positive cases. If it chooses not to report, for whatever reason, it should not report anything. But, DJJ reported last week that it had one positive case, when there had been at least 13 who had tested positive. The Governor appoints agency heads, so, in one respect, the DJJ director reports to the Governor. In another sense, the Secretary of Public Safety has day-to-day responsibility for agencies in that portfolio, such as DJJ.

      • Dick – I’m not sure we are seeing any such reporting of positive cases on a per store basis…. but if you are, then it does sound like that info is being released.

        In terms of DJJ, let me ask, what would be the reason that they’d not be more transparent? Is there any organizational reason to not be and it’s purely the whim of the folks in charge and they just choose to not be transparent? if that’s so, it sounds pretty irresponsible. I just suspect there is some organizational issues… but if you think not, then I would go by your view.

        • Generally, information about juvenile offenders is not released publicly. But that is applicable only to personal information about individual offenders–name,etc. The agency has had no problem in the past about releasing data about the population generally. So, the director’s claim that the data on the number of positives was not released out of desire/need to protect the privacy of the juveniles rings hollow for me.

          I suspect, and this is my cynical suspicion based on no direct information, that the agency was reluctant to release the information due to a fear that the public acknowledgement of so many juveniles testing positive would ratchet up the pressure from the ACLU and other advocates to release the juveniles from custody. Whether this decision was made at the agency level or higher up, I have no idea. Probably those making that decision were able to justify it in their minds with the fact that so many of the juveniles showed no symptoms other than a slightly elevated temperature. After all, if anyone in the general public had such a slight fever and no other symptoms, he would think nothing of it and would not even get tested.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Dick, are they still putting newly offending adults and juveniles into these correction facilities at typical rates, or finding other solutions, temporary or otherwise?

          • re: ” Whether this decision was made at the agency level or higher up, I have no idea.”

            Yes, but like in the Roosevelt case – the upper level folks let their subordinates know “informally” … to do the deed at that level
            and not bump it upstairs.

            That’s what I mean if you are in that position in the food chain – you get do the thing that they know is wrong – and if you get by it, fine, and if you do not and fall on your sword… oh well… find a replacement…

            That totally backfired with the Roosevelt… and now it’s the Captains superiors who are on the hot seat though I bet
            the worst they get is a wrist slap.

          • Dick Hall-Sizemore

            Reed, DOC stopped accepting transfers from jails about a month ago. I am not sure, but I assume that DJJ also stopped accepting new commitments, as well. I saw a news report, today, I think, that the Secretary of Public Safety had reported that the populations of jails was down by 17 percent.

  7. To go back to an earlier point, Larry, the store I frequent did announce a sick worker. Didn’t close, didn’t seem to stop other customers.

    • Looks like I’m wrong about that… I guess if they’re not concerned about grocery stores, they’d not either about restaurants and such?

      Or perhaps if a store had 3-4 that test positive..??

      It’s a little bit weird. Grocery stores have way more mixing of people than say a standard restaurant. It would not be shocking at all if out of hundreds of customer per day that some of the customers would be infected. Walmart is a mixture of young employees and older ones. The younger ones tend to be stockers and the older ones check-out.

      I got some wine yesterday and the checkout lady made me stand 6 feet away and then when I needed to swipe the card – she moved back 6 feet then asked if I wanted the receipt clearly hoping that I would not.

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