The following changes are the result of efforts of the JJPOC and others through executive and legislative leadership.
In December 2015, Governor Dannel Malloy announced his desire to close the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS) by July 2018. The facility opened in 2001 with a maximum capacity of over 230 residents. In the spring and summer of 2016, due to a decreasing number of youth committed delinquent and to policy changes within the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the average daily population at CJTS was 45 youth. In June 2016, DCF presented an overview of their plan for closure of CJTS to the JJPOC. Legislation in 2016 mandated that CJTS close by July 1, 2018. Earlier than anticipated, CJTS closed in May 2018.
Public Act 17-02, “An Act Concerning the State Budget for the Biennium ending June 30th, 2019, Making Appropriations therefore, Authorizing and Adjusting Bonds of the State and Implementing Provision of the Budget” included three sections (e.g., Sec. 321, 322, and 323) that involve the transfer of juvenile justice functions from Department of Children and Families (DCF) to the Judicial Branch. The Judicial Branch Court Support Services Division (CSSD) is currently working on implementing the new system and provides regular updates to the JJPOC.
The new system will provide for a more comprehensive and consistent approach to working with incarcerated youth, and those recently involved in the juvenile justice system. This system will also utilize more community-based approaches for services and secure residential placements.
Punishing and confining youth for nonviolent misbehaviors that pose little to no public safety risk does nothing to address the underlying personal and family needs but has potentially far-reaching, negative consequences. Status offenses are at the front end of the entire justice system—the earliest point of contact where youth misbehave. If this point of contact is overly punitive and youth enter the justice system, the chance for greater future offenses is increased, recidivism rates are increased and this affects the entire justice system and community.
Now with more knowledge and research on brain development, it is clear that these behaviors are often a reaction to being exposed to traumatic events and activities. An understanding of the cause and effect, as well as signs of mental health problems, culture, systemic bias, gender identities and race, are critical to the development of influence dynamics with youth. In 2007, Connecticut eliminated status offenses for youth, such as truancy, from the court system and into more appropriate and better equipped community systems to manage these behaviors.
Connecticut struggles to educate young people in state custody. Currently the system is fragmented and expensive; lacks quality standards, monitoring, and accountability; lacks specialization and expertise causing youth to slip during transitions. Like many states, Connecticut has little information on educational outcomes for youth in the deep end of the justice system. In 2016, the Connecticut legislature directed key state stakeholders to collaborate in developing a plan to meet the educational needs of justice-involved youth better. The Recidivism Reduction Workgroup of the JJPOC spent much of 2017 studying the problem in Connecticut and examining possible solutions. In 2018, the primary focus of P.A. 18-31 is creating a new Education Committee on improving the educational services to youth in out of home placement.
Click HERE for the Transforming Education in Connecticut’s Justice System Report.
P.A. 18-31 mandates that by January 1, 2020, the JJPOC shall report on a Justice Reinvestment Plan that will allow for the reinvestment of a portion of the savings from the decreased use of incarceration and congregate care programming to become strategic investments in home, school and community based behavioral health services for children diverted from the juvenile justice system. On February 20-21, 2019, The Council of State Governments (CSG) conducted focus groups with key stakeholders from Connecticut to learn more about the state’s juvenile justice system with the specific goal of identifying challenges and opportunities for reducing recidivism and improving other outcomes for youth.
CSG found Connecticut to be a perfect candidate to undergo an assessment to try to better understand the full scope of the population of youth entering the juvenile justice system, how youth are being supervised and served in the system, and how youth are faring as a result of current supervision and service policies and practices. On June 11th, the Council of State Governments headed to the State Capitol in Hartford from Washington D.C. to kick off the inaugural session of the Improving Outcomes for Youth (IOYouth) Initiative.