Tuesday, September 16, 2014

'Jane Doe's running away this morning from Department of Children and Families custody was not surprising'

Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance Statement
on Jane Doe / September 16, 2014

  • Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance

  • Contact: Colleen Shaddox

    Jane Doe's running away this morning from Department of Children and Families custody was not surprising.

    Jane, a transgender girl who is being held in isolation at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, a boys’ prison, allegedly ran away when she was taken outside CJTS for treatment.

    For the past seven months, Jane has been either at CJTS, a boys' prison; the Pueblo Unit, a girls' prison so troubled that the Office of the Child Advocate has reported suspected child abuse there; or York Correctional Institution, a women's prison. Most of that time, she was in isolation if not outright solitary confinement. Isolation is psychologically harmful, particularly for adolescents. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychologists issued a statement in 2012 saying that solitary confinement was inappropriate for children because it put them at risk of depression, anxiety and even psychosis. The conditions of Jane's confinement are harmful, and she fled that harm.

    Today was the first time in more than seven months DCF allowed her to briefly leave a locked facility so that she could receive treatment in the community. Jane understood that the respite would be brief, as DCF's treatment plan is for her to continue to live in isolation in a boys' prison. She will leave three times a week for therapy. Services for this deeply traumatized 16-year-old have been insufficient and uncoordinated.

    Jane has been known to the child welfare system most of her life. It repeatedly failed to protect her and then punished her for its own failure. Girls frequently go AWOL from DCF custody. Jane is one of three girls recently held at Pueblo to run away from DCF placements, according to news reports. Jane is the only child we know of whose running away prompted DCF to release a news bulletin. We submit the issue is not primarily Jane. It is the state system itself. Other states treat high-risk children in the community effectively and safety. These jurisdictions hold young people accountable for their actions while addressing the significant traumas they have suffered in their lives. States do this without incarceration, but through highly individualized planning and connections to caring adults. This is what Jane Doe and all DCF children need and deserve.

    All of us who have been working on Jane's behalf regret that after many months she is still being treated primarily as a criminal instead of a child in extreme need. Today's events underline the urgency of this work. Rather than use her actions as an excuse to further stigmatize and punish Jane, we hope the state will see it as what it was -- a desperate attempt by a young person who is not getting the help she needs. We renew our call for DCF to consult outside experts to develop an appropriate plan of treatment specific to Jane’s needs.

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