LRC and partners call on Hennepin County to immediately end the practice of placing children in correctional facilities, as well as for an immediate court review for every child currently confined in a correctional facility
On May 1, 2020 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick died after being restrained for throwing a sandwich at Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a youth correctional facility run by the for-profit Sequel facility management corporation. We have now learned that an autopsy confirmed that Cornelius died as a result of asphyxiation during the restraint. Several children from Hennepin County were confined at Lakeside Academy when Cornelius was killed. In fact, Hennepin County frequently placed children at Lakeside Academy on juvenile delinquency matters, despite a publicly documented history of violations substantiated by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Although Hennepin County has since removed all children from this facility, this response is not sufficient.
Cornelius Frederick should be alive today. His death at the hands of staff at a youth correctional facility must be a wake-up call for Hennepin County juvenile justice stakeholders at all decision points – from pre-arrest to post-disposition. George Floyd was restrained, asphyxiated, and murdered by Minneapolis police officers for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill. Cornelius Frederick threw a sandwich at a youth correctional facility. Every child currently placed in a correctional facility is at imminent risk. Hennepin County cannot allow this to continue.
It is well past time to end the detrimental practice of removing our children from our communities and confining them in correctional facilities under the pretense of providing therapeutic treatment. Cornelius Frederick’s death is not an isolated tragedy of one child in one facility, but an extreme manifestation of the unsafe circumstances that children commonly experience when removed from their homes by the juvenile justice system. Children in correctional facilities are routinely subjected to maltreatment through bullying, inappropriate restraint, and other forms of physical abuse. Many children end up cycling through multiple correctional facilities, pointing to a very basic failure in their stated purpose.
Furthermore, the racial disparities in out of home placements for children in Hennepin County juvenile court are astronomical. For example, in 2018, Black youth were 26 times more likely to be placed than their white peers. These unconscionable disparities cannot be explained by differences in behavior, and would not be allowed to persist if white children were overrepresented. Instead they are driven by long-standing and deeply entrenched policies and practices that target Black youth, Indigenous youth, and youth of Color. We recognize that work has been done in Hennepin County over recent years to reduce the use of youth detention and out-of-home placement, but in this time disparities have persisted and even grown. We must move beyond incremental change and act with urgency.
The Legal Rights Center has long advocated to stop warehousing children at correctional facilities; to stop subjecting Black youth, Indigenous youth, and children of Color to these harmful conditions; and to redirect resources to keep our children safe in community. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have called for additional scrutiny of this practice, as correctional facilities have been hotspots for outbreaks both in Minnesota and across the country. Today we call for Hennepin County to immediately end the practice of placing children in correctional facilities, as well as for an immediate court review for every child currently confined in a correctional facility. We stand with our community in demanding that the lives of Black children, Indigenous children, and children of Color matter.
Michael Friedman, Executive Director, Legal Rights Center
Leslie Redmond, President, NAACP Minneapolis
Nekima Levy Armstrong, Attorney and Founder, Racial Justice Network
Tracine Asberry, Executive Director, St. Paul Youth Services
Kevin Reese, Founder, Until We Are Free
John Gordon, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota
Gary Charwood, Chair, Minnesota Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee
Alfonso J. Mayfield, Racial Equity Specialist, Youthprise
Kori Redepenning, CEO, Minnesota Alliance with Youth
LRC staff include attorneys and advocates from a range of background and lived experiences.
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