Known for Progressive Criminal Justice Reform, Connecticut Takes a Hit on Its Juvenile Justice System
Date:  07-31-2015

Investigative Report finds children were shackled, put in isolation and had a high rate of suicide attempts
Over the years Reentry Central has published several article regarding Connecticut being recognized as being at the forefront of criminal justice reform in both its adult and juvenile systems.

Under Governor Dannel Malloy, Connecticut has seen a drop in the incarceration rates of juveniles and adults. Connecticut raised the age from 16 to 18 allowing justice involved young people to be considered juveniles, rather than adults . President Obama recently praised Malloy for his “Second Chance Society “ reform measures.

Connecticut closed prisons, abolished the death penalty (except for those already on Death Row when the law was passed), brought back earned good time, allowing people in prison the chance to be released early for participating in reentry programs, and pushed for more educational and vocational training for people in prison.

However, Connecticut’s juvenile justice system has been under fire in recent years for its treatment of a transgender teen who was put in an adult women’s prison and held in solitary confinement even though she had not been charged or convicted of a crime. The teen, known as Jane Doe, was later sent to a “training school” for juvenile boys. On July 22 of this year, the State of Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) released a damning report on the treatment of juveniles held at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, a facility for boys, and Connecticut’s Pueblo Unit (CJTS) , which houses girls.

The report cited several issues of concern:

  • CJTS and Pueblo have not adequately prevented or responded to youth suicide attempts and self-injurious behavior. Between June, 2014 and February, 2015 OCA discerned over two dozen documented acts of youth trying to injure or kill themselves at CJTS and Pueblo.

  • DCF did not complete a comprehensive suicide prevention audit for Pueblo prior to opening the facility. Pueblo cells still have dangerous “blind spots,” contrary to the advice of national experts on suicide prevention.

  • Isolation of youth with psychiatric needs has at times been prolonged and used in lieu of treatment.

  • Isolation and restraints were repeatedly used unlawfully, at times as behavior management strategies or for discipline when there was no documented ongoing emergency.

  • OCA’s review of facility incident reports over a 12 month period (July 1, 2014 through July 1, 2015) reveal at least 532 physical restraints and 134 uses of mechanical restraints (handcuffs or shackles).

  • DCF has declined to investigate several allegations of abuse and neglect of children confined in the facility.

  • There is a general lack of transparency, which includes inadequate auditing, poor data use, collection, and reporting.

  • Staff need significantly improved training to respond to youth behavior that emanates from trauma.
  • Public safety will not be improved without rigorous attention to the effectiveness of rehabilitation and operations within this facility. Read full report here.

    The New Haven Register reported an audit found additional financial problems at the Connecticut Department of Children and Families which oversees the state’s juvenile facilities. Read more.