Cynthia and her son

Reaching through phones

A mother’s fight to protect her son in youth detention in the face of a pandemic 

Being a mother involved in the justice system can mean many things. For many mother’s in L.A. County, it means fighting for their sons held in detention during a pandemic.

Cynthia knows what COVID-19 does to people. As a certified nurse’s assistant at a Los Angeles county hospital, she sees it firsthand. That makes her even more afraid for her 16-year-old son with asthma, a condition that makes him more vulnerable to the virus, who is held in juvenile hall awaiting the next steps of his trial. 

"As a parent, I fear for him. I fear for his life, for his well-being, for his health"

“As a parent, I fear for him. I fear for his life, for his well-being, for his health,” she said. She asked that her son not be identified by name to protect his privacy as a minor. The Appeal is only using her first name to protect her son’s identity.

Cynthia said he hasn’t received his medication since his arrest in early January on charges including grand theft auto, for which he has yet to enter a plea. She said the facility called her mid-April to ask what medication he needed. His public defender declined to comment on his case, citing privacy issues.

Cynthia’s son is one of almost 550 youth still incarcerated in the county who face longer periods of incarceration due to court delays, at a time when jails and prisons are emerging as particularly dangerous sites for transmission of COVID-19. 

“The challenge with correctional settings, including juvenile detention centers, is basically, they are like a cruise boat, but more dangerous,” Elizabeth Barnert, an assistant professor of pediatrics at UCLA and a pediatrician in one of the juvenile halls, said. 

Cynthia's son and his sister

Cynthia’s son misses his 4-year-old sister the most out of his three younger siblings. He loved taking his little sister out to the park to show her how to play basketball and going on walks with her, she said. He looks up to Kobe Bryant, and, before he was detained, he played basketball as a standout defender on a year-round team.

“Him being there is not for him. And he’s never been in a situation like this,” Cynthia said. She said he wants to go back to school, then to college and basketball, and eventually own a construction company. 

“It makes me feel hopeless because I can’t do nothing about it. All I can do is just try to call and get in contact with somebody because he’s inside there, and I’m out here,” Cynthia said.

"It makes me feel hopeless"

Read the full article here at The Appeal.


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