CJTS teacher: Juvenile offenders’ ‘best chance is with us’

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In light of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposal to “Raise the Age” of juveniles to 20, it is time to recognize once and for all that Connecticut’s juvenile delinquent offenders should be sent to the Connecticut Juvenile Training School and not to the state’s youth prison, Manson Youth Institute.

Contrary to the Office of the Child Advocate’s misleading and politically-charged claim that we are abusing our residents, the truth of the matter is that the residents of CJTS receive a comprehensive, intensive, and high-quality array of services from dedicated and passionate professionals. They form strong bonds and relationships with the CJTS staff that help them to develop into healthier young men. They receive the variety, depth of services, and individualized interventions that are not and will never be available at MYI.

Instead of pushing to close the doors of CJTS, legislators should be pushing to expand services there. Send us the older juveniles, even the 20-year-olds, if the state decides to “Raise the Age.” Send us back the residents who have been forced to leave too early because of new inexplicable legislation that is pushing them out after a mere couple of months. Send us the scores of youth who are currently languishing in MYI because they are not being allowed back to CJTS for reasons unclear to anybody.

The State of Connecticut is indeed failing our youth offenders, but I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that the failure is unequivocally not occurring within the confines of CJTS; on the contrary, we are part of precisely what IS working. If the State were to set up a system for tracking these young men and women, we could identify exactly where the failure is occurring and target our efforts to fix the problem at its real, not its falsely-alleged source.

Whether or not Malloy’s proposal comes to fruition, we the staff at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School can and will continue to help our state’s most troubled and difficult juveniles more than any youth prison could. Send them to us and let us continue do our job to give them their last chances at real rehabilitation, education, and ultimate life success.

Their best chance is with us.

Suzanne Borner of New Britain is a special education teacher at the Walter G. Cady School in the Connecticut Juvenile Training School. She has been working there for nearly eight years.

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