Wayne Colson Sr. recalls feeling “helpless” with his son sitting in jail as news of the COVID-19 pandemic was breaking. A loyal father, Colson had visited his son every Sunday. “I didn’t want him to feel like nobody was there,” he says in an interview. “I was never too busy to show him love.” 

Visitations at the jail were cancelled when COVID-19 hit. Worried his son would catch this deadly, invisible disease, Colson felt he was in a “whirlwind.” 

Colson and his son live in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, a Midwestern college metropolitan area two hours south of Chicago. Many Black youth, like Colson’s son, have little prospect of attending the state’s flagship campus, the University of Illinois, and get funneled into the criminal legal system.

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