In an Op-ed published recently, juvenile justice-involved teenagers were referred to as “enterprising and energetic, wild and out of control.” While you’d expect to hear that from a member of Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice, this came from Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane in the Hartford Courant.
Mr. Kane made these comments in a piece arguing against “Raise the Age” legislation in other states, utilizing racially loaded language and anecdotal evidence to create fear and panic. His comments do not reflect the reality that keeping teens in the community, with services in place, is both cheaper, and has a more positive outcome for all parties involved.
Mr. Kane is out of touch with research on incarcerating juveniles in adult facilities, as well as what Connecticut is already implementing to help these children.
Youth placed in adult facilities are more likely to recidivate, due to physical and emotional abuse suffered while detained, as well as a lack of age-appropriate rehabilitation while in detention. Connecticut is also at the forefront of funding evidence-based programming that both keep these kids at home, as well as their communities safe.
One model, Multisystemic Therapy (MST), received $1.6 million dollars in state funding during FY 2016. The results speak for themselves: Since 2003, over 5,000 families received MST in Connecticut, with a 74 percent rate of non-arrest following treatment. In a 2001 study done by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, they estimated that every dollar spent on programs such as MST would save taxpayers and victims between $12.40 and $28.33 compared to detention. Those are numbers the four incidents Mr. Kane describes in his article cannot deny.
Mr. Kane may have held his current post since 2006, but his ideas are out of date in 2017. Connecticut’s children and families deserve better.
Jorge Fernandez is the Co-founder of the Hamden Progressive Action Network.