The CTMirror story Juvenile Justice in CT: “What’s left after all the cuts” rings loudly in the ears of those of us working in the deep end of the system. The Connecticut Juvenile Training School, and the Walter G. Cady School educational component have been forced to operate with insufficient programming for the youth both within and outside the facility.
At the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS), workers compensation claims are soaring, mostly because staff is frequently injured putting youth in physical restraints. The Department of Children and Families and union officials told The Connecticut Mirror that restraints are necessary because youth at the facility are so difficult. They point to recent policies that removed many young people from CJTS, leaving only the most challenging youth at the facility. This reaction is disturbing on several levels and underlines the need to work toward closing CJTS.
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.
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.
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.
Recent reports concerning the Department of Children and Families, along with Commissioner Joette Katz’s long history of failure, misplaced priorities and lack of transparency and accountability, leave me with no confidence in her willingness or ability to openly and seriously confront critical issues within her agency. That’s why I felt compelled to call for her resignation.
The Office of the Child Advocate’s report on the Connecticut Juvenile Training School reveals conditions requiring decisive action to keep youth safe. It is encouraging that the Department of Children and Families recently released its own report on CJTS acknowledging problems with the facility. Both reports leave me convinced that many of the youth at CJTS simply do not belong there.