Better outcomes in CT juvenile justice — and potentially savings, too

With the state’s new fiscal reality as background, the Children’s League of Connecticut has offered a number of policy based solutions meant to improve the quality of life for youth and families served by the Connecticut juvenile justice system. In many cases these concepts will result in lower costs to taxpayers and in all cases we believe our suggestions will result in better outcomes for youth and their families — which should be everyone’s goal.

Legislative witnesses hold forth on how old a juvenile should be

After stalling out during the regular legislative season, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposal for a Second Chance Society is awaiting action by the General Assembly later this week. Among other things, the governor asked for the elimination of bail bonds for misdemeanor offenses and that 18- to 20-years be tried as juveniles — an idea that engendered both support and opposition. The governor has now dropped the age adjustment idea as a political compromise, but a long list of witnesses provided testimony both for and against the idea during a Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this year. Here are some excerpts from witnesses on the age issue and the bail legislation as well:

Recognize or repurpose CT Juvenile Training School, don’t close it

Putting children’s needs first means using the Connecticut Juvenile Training School and the Walter G. Cady School as part of the toolbox. It appears that some, including those in positions of advocacy and legislation, would carelessly ignore the programs that are in place while trying to create a new and unfunded system.

Individualized treatment for Connecticut children is the goal

For too long the debate over the care of children and young adults in Connecticut with behavioral health needs, developmental disabilities or those in the juvenile justice system has been centered on the wrong issue. Important time, money, and other resources have been spent debating the future of specific programs, rather than focusing on how best to provide care and treatment that will meet individual needs.

Secret trials for CT 20-somethings would be unconstitutional

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the General Assembly are to be commended for their 2015 “Second Chance Society” legislation, reversing racist laws that filled our jails with nonviolent drug users, most of them African-American and Latino. But it is ill-advised to pursue announced policies emanating from that corrective action; especially plans for secret trials of defendants in their early 20s.

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

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.

Consider an independent juvenile justice authority for Connecticut

Before “raising the age” again, the State of Connecticut and its key justice agencies — DCF, DOC and the Judicial Branch including the Court Support Services Division — need to participate in an honest independent look at all of our current organizational structures for adjudicated youth. The purpose of this external review would be to examine creation of an independent Juvenile Justice Authority that is science-informed, takes a two-generation approach and is anchored in “evidence-based” policy, practice and programs. Clearly what we have now is not working well. Besides that, it is really expensive.

CT juvenile centers must operate with understanding of trauma

The recent report from the Office of Child Advocate states that the vast majority of children and youth at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School and Pueblo have “histories of trauma, abuse, neglect, complex psychiatric disorders and special education needs.”
It then goes on to detail the use of isolation and restraints as behavior management strategies or for discipline even in non-emergency situations. I want to start by saying those charged with rehabilitating and treating this vulnerable population face difficulties and challenges. But are cycles of punishment that go nowhere and only harm our youth any better? I say no, and I offer an alternative: operating from an understanding of the impact of trauma.

A battle for the soul of juvenile corrections shapes up in Connecticut

At the end of a grueling three-hour hearing on Aug. 21, state Rep. Toni Walker, chair of Connecticut’s Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee, laid the issue on the table. Referring to the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, Connecticut’s only state-run youth corrections facility for boys, she asked, “The real question is, does Connecticut need CJTS? [Does the facility provide] the level of care that we really require in this state? Is CJTS the best method of delivering the needs for that population?” These questions are being hotly debated in Connecticut thanks to new revelations of a rash of suicide attempts and pervasive use of physical restraints and seclusion, both at CJTS and in the small Pueblo unit that opened nearby last year to serve troubled girls.

Connecticut’s juvenile detention program needs reform

Sexual abuse. Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Neglect. Sex Trafficking. Community violence. Violent deaths of family and friends.
This is just a partial list of the traumas that many – if not most – youth who become involved in the juvenile justice system in Connecticut have experienced in their short lives. No wonder that they become willing to act “by any means necessary” in order to survive and protect those close to them — even if this lands them in juvenile prisons such as the Department of Children and Families’ Training School for boys and Pueblo Unit for girls.