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Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform | CT

Connecticut: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 


      • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Connecticut Encourages Use of Community-Based Programs to Prevent Justice System Involvement: The Connecticut General Assembly passed a law establishing a pilot program in Hartford aimed at preventing youth delinquency and violence. The program requires the Court Support Services Division to collaborate with community-based services aimed at promoting positive youth development and reducing contact with the juvenile justice system. The law also establishes a bond program to provide grants to subsidize youth employment through the newly established Connecticut Young Adult Conservation Corps. S.B. 1163/Act No. 13-268, signed into law July 11, 2013; Hartford pilot program effective July 11, 2013, bond program effective July 1, 2013, and Connecticut Young Adult Conservation Corps effective January 1, 2014.
      • Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) — New Haven Engages in Local-Level Efforts to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities: Following in the footsteps of Bridgeport and Hartford, stakeholders in New Haven are working to replicate successful strategies from the MacArthur Foundation’s DMC Action Network. The project has engaged local stakeholders and state agencies to analyze local data on racial and ethnic disparities, and develop and monitor interventions. To date, stakeholders in all four cities have improved data collection, trained law enforcement officers on community-based diversion options, and expanded eligibility for diversion programs.
      • School-to-Prison Pipeline — State Advisory Group Creates Network to Reduce Arrests and Increase Collaboration between Schools and Police: Connecticut’s State Advisory Group (SAG), the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, created the “Right Response CT” network, which works to enhance school safety and reduce arrests through consistent and appropriate handling of students who are disruptive. Sixteen communities received small grants from the SAG to: 1) establish a local collaboration team with school, police, and community membership; 2) participate in at least three network sessions; 3) send at least 10 school staff to a training on effective school staff interactions with students and police; 4) customize or revise, sign, and implement a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the superintendent of schools and the chief of police based upon a model developed by the SAG; and 5) increase or enhance preventive and/or intervention strategies. The grants led to the creation of 20 MOAs between police and schools in the first four years.
      • Youth Involved in the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems — Connecticut Creates Raise the Grade Pilot Program for Youth in the Juvenile Justice or Child Welfare System: Acknowledging a problematic educational achievement gap between youth in the juvenile justice and/or child welfare systems and those in the general population, the Connecticut General Assembly created the Raise the Grade pilot program. The two-year pilot program—created by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in consultation with the Department of Education—is being implemented in Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven and aims to increase the academic achievement of children in DCF custody or who are served by the Court Support Services Division. The legislation includes provisions to help identify youth who are performing below grade level, develop plans to improve youth’s academic performance, facilitate the transfer of academic records, and annually track the academic progress of each youth in state custody. H.B. 6705/Act No. 13-234, signed into law June 19, 2013; effective July 1, 2013.


      • Youth in the Adult System — Connecticut Removes Some Roadblocks to Keeping Youth in Juvenile Court: Connecticut state law requires youth 14 and older charged with Class A or B felonies to be transferred to adult court, but a youth charged with a Class B felony may be sent back to juvenile court if both the prosecutor and defense counsel agree that the youth would be better served there. Prior to new legislation, the prosecutor had only 10 days to file a motion to transfer a youth back to juvenile court; the legislation eliminates the 10-day limit. For youth charged with other felonies, the law moves discretionary transfer hearings out of adult court and back to juvenile court. A court may only transfer such a case if “the best interests of the child and the public” will not be served by keeping the case in juvenile court. In making this finding, the court must consider the existence and seriousness of any prior offenses, any evidence of mental illness or intellectual disability, and the availability of appropriate services in juvenile court. H.B. 6001/Act No. 12-1, signed into law June 15, 2012; effective October 1, 2012.


      • Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) — Bridgeport and Hartford Engage in Local-Level DMC Reduction Efforts: Stakeholders in Bridgeport and Hartford are working to replicate successful strategies from the MacArthur Foundation’s DMC Action Network. The project, begun in June 2011, has engaged local stakeholders and state agencies to analyze local data on racial and ethnic disparities, and develop and monitor interventions. To date, stakeholders have improved data collection, trained law enforcement officers on community-based diversion options, and expanded eligibility for diversion programs.
      • Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) — Legislature Requires State to Address Disproportionate Minority Contact: The Connecticut Commissioner of Children and Families, Commissioner of Public Safety, Chief State’s Attorney, Chief Public Defender, Chief Court Administrator, and Police Officer Standards and Training Council must each prepare a report on their plans to address disproportionate minority contact and steps taken to implement those plans during the previous two fiscal years. The first biennial report was submitted to the governor and legislature on December 31, 2011. The report includes a chart of the steps to be taken by various state agencies to address DMC in FY 2012 and FY 2013, focusing on data, policies and practices, shared initiatives, and training and technical assistance. The report also includes information on efforts made by state agencies to address DMC in the past. H.B. 6634/Public Act 11-154, signed into law and effective July 8, 2011.
      • Screening and Assessment — Education Screening Tool to Be Implemented for Youth Entering Detention: The Connecticut Judicial Branch/Court Support Services Division commissioned Yale University to develop an educational screening tool for youth entering detention centers, in order to determine their grade equivalent for reading and math based on Connecticut standards. The tool has been validated for use in detention centers and is now available to educators. The developers of the tool are currently working to refine the instrument to make it more user-friendly and thereby broaden its use across the state.
      • School-to-Prison Pipeline — Connecticut Judicial Branch to Screen All Arrests for Minor Offenses in Schools: The Connecticut Judicial Branch now screens all police summonses for youth arrested for minor offenses in schools in order to determine whether the facts, if true, are sufficient to warrant a court referral and whether the interests of the public or the child require further action. Insufficient summonses will be sent back to police. The change in policy is due to research showing that contact with the juvenile justice system can have negative outcomes for youth who commit low-level offenses. The judicial branch seeks to reduce the number of arrests made in schools for behavior that could be dealt with by school staff. Specifically, probation supervisors will recommend no further court involvement for typical adolescent behavior, such as wearing a hat in school, talking back to staff, running in the halls, or swearing. Policy No. 74, June 15, 2011; effective June 1, 2011.
      • Conditions of Confinement — Youth Gain Prompter Access to Temporary Leave from Facilities: The Connecticut General Assembly waived the 60-day waiting period for a youth to be granted leave after his or her placement changes. Prior to this, youth could not apply for leave from a juvenile facility or residential placement to attend events such as a family gathering. The legislature also eliminated the one-year mandatory minimum stay at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, allowing youth to be sentenced to shorter stays. H.B. 6636/Public Act 11-156, signed into law July 8, 2011; effective October 1, 2011.
      • Probation, Parole, and Reentry — State Works to Streamline Reentry to School: Connecticut law now allows a student to re-enroll in his or her old school district after being sent to a juvenile detention center, the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, or another residential placement for committing an offense for which the student could be expelled from school. Before the student is discharged from detention, educational providers must assess the schoolwork he or she completed while incarcerated and determine how much academic credit to assign to it; credits must be accepted by the school to which the student returns. H.B. 6325/Public Act 11-115, signed into law July 8, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.
      • Probation, Parole, and Reentry — Law Restricts Use of Detention: A new Connecticut law restricts placement of youth in detention unless there is probable cause to believe the youth has committed the acts alleged and there is no less restrictive alternative available. The law also carves out six additional factors that allow for detention, including a strong probability that a youth will run away and a judicial finding of a violation of a suspended detention order. No youth may be held in any detention center without a judicial order to detain. H.B. 6634/Public Act 11-154, signed into law July 8, 2011; effective October 1, 2011.
      • Probation, Parole, and Reentry — Judicial Branch Closes Juvenile Detention Center: The Connecticut Judicial Branch closed the New Haven Detention Center in October 2011. This was partly due to a tight budget, but was also the result of ten years of reform advocacy, which fostered a statewide movement that increased investments in prevention and reduced the secure confinement of youth in detention centers prior to adjudication. The judicial branch closed the facility based on a lack of need for a total of three regular state detention centers; only two facilities now remain. Closing the facility preserved $3 million for programming and eliminated a total of 94 detention beds.
      • School-to-Prison Pipeline — Schools to Address Truancy: State law in Connecticut now requires school districts to take additional measures to address truancy and to report annually on their truancy reduction activities. Schools must provide written notice to parents that unexcused absences could result in a complaint filed with the Superior Court. The legislation also requires the State Board of Education to adopt uniform definitions of excused and unexcused absences for districts to use in implementing required truancy policies and filing truancy data reports. H.B. 6499/Public Act 11-136, signed into law July 8, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.

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      • Sexual Exploitation of Youth — Police Must Report Possible Abuse or Neglect of Youth Arrested for Prostitution: New legislation requires police to report suspected abuse or neglect of youth arrested for prostitution to the Department of Children and Families. This is part of a movement to decriminalize youth involved in prostitution, and increase the recognition that youth involved in prostitution are very often being coerced and/or abused by adults. S.B. 1044/Public Act 11-180, signed into law July 13, 2011; effective October 1, 2011.
      • Sexual Exploitation of Youth — Legislature Passes Law to Protect Sexually Exploited Children: The Connecticut General Assembly passed “An Act Providing Safe Harbor for Exploited Children,” which makes it illegal for youth younger than 16 to be charged with prostitution. Previously there was no age limit for charging youth with prostitution. The law also provides that for 16- and 17-year olds, there is a presumption that the youth was coerced into committing the offense. Lastly, the bill increases the penalties for promoting the prostitution of someone younger than 18 years old. S.B. 153/Public Act 10-115, signed into law June 7, 2010; effective October 1, 2010.

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      • Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) — New DMC Study Paves the Way for Change: In May 2009, Connecticut’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee completed its third in-depth research study of disproportionate minority contact at nearly all decision points across the system (the study does not include the decision to arrest, as Connecticut does not require patrol officers to report incidents that do not involve arrests or formal warnings). The report includes several recommendations for policy and practice changes, such as improved, more frequent data collection and reporting, and making a judge’s order a requirement for every detention admission.
      • Youth in the Adult System — Court Finds Discretionary Transfer of 14- and 15-Year-Olds to Adult Court Unconstitutional: On June 16, 2009, the Connecticut Appellate Court ruled in State of Connecticut v. David A. Fernandes, Jr., 115 Conn. App. 180 (2009), that the state’s discretionary transfer law, which allows prosecutors to send 14- and 15-year-olds charged with C, D, and unclassified felonies to adult court, is unconstitutional. The court held that because of the liberty interest at stake, a youth facing transfer on such charges is entitled to due process. Such due process includes a hearing during which the juvenile court judge considers argument from counsel and may exercise his or her discretion to determine whether to order the transfer. The Connecticut Supreme Court later heard the case on appeal and limited the scope of the ruling; the court agreed that a hearing must be held, but determined that the legislative history of the transfer statute required such hearings to be held in adult court, rather than juvenile court. State v. Fernandes, 300 Conn. 104 (2010).
      • Youth in the Adult System — Sixteen-Year-Olds Returned to Juvenile Justice System: Starting January 1, 2010, 16-year-olds became a part of Connecticut’s juvenile justice system. Legislation passed in 2007 called for 16- and 17-year-olds to be moved into the juvenile system (except youth who had committed specific serious and violent offenses), but the state’s budget crisis and other efforts to repeal the law on philosophical or administrative grounds threatened to delay implementation for all youth. Further legislation passed in 2009 moved 16-year-olds into the juvenile justice system as of 2010 and specifies how the change will be implemented. Seventeen-year-olds became part of the juvenile system as of July 1, 2012. H.B.7007/Public Act 09-7, signed into law October 5, 2009; effective January 1, 2010.
      • School-to-Prison Pipeline — Legislature Acts to Stem School-to-Prison Pipeline: The Connecticut General Assembly acted on several fronts in 2009 to reduce school pushout. A new law states that if a student who committed an expellable offense seeks to return to school after having been in a juvenile facility or residential placement for one year or more, the district to which the student is returning must allow him or her to return, and may not expel the student for additional time for the original offense. The law prohibits schools from holding an expulsion in abeyance and then enforcing the expulsion when a student attempts to return after a year-long residential placement. H.B. 6567/Public Act 09-82, signed into law June 3, 2009; effective July 1, 2009. Starting July 1, 2010, a school must readmit within three days a student who dropped out if the student seeks readmission within 10 days of dropping out. Previously, schools were not required to readmit a student for up to 90 days. The same law also raises the age at which a child may drop out of school with parental/guardian consent from 16 to 17, effective July 1, 2011. S.B. 2053/Public Act 09-6, signed into law October 5, 2009. Lastly, school districts must add truancy data to the list of items reported to the State Department of Education. Such data is defined as attendance information and unexcused absences, and will be public record. S.S.B. 940/Public Act 09-143, signed into law June 25, 2009; effective July 1, 2009.
      • Status Offenses — Budget Includes Increased Funding for Status Offender Programs: In 2007, Connecticut’s Public Act 07-4 mandated that the state provide Family Support Centers (FSCs) for high-need status offenders and their families. FSCs are designed to proactively provide these youth and families with the supports they need to prevent entry into the delinquency system. As of September 2009, only four of ten planned FSCs were funded/opened, serving only 39 of the state’s 169 municipalities. In 2009, despite a budget crisis, the legislature acted in favor of the cost-effective investment in prevention and included funding for six additional FSCs in its state budget. H.B. 6802/Public Act 09-3, effective September 8, 2009.

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Photo: Photo Phiend, under Creative Commons License.