In Connecticut a transgender teen (16, according to reports) who had been in the custody of the Department of Children and Families was transferred out of that custody and sent to an adult prison, York Correctional Institution in Niantic (East Lyme). On the one hand, the transgender girl was sent to an all-female facility. On the other hand, it is an adult facility…and the teen had been convicted of no crime.
DCF said that it could no longer care for the transgender girl, claiming that she had a history of assaulting staff members. DCF officials referred to a a statute which hasn’t been used in 14 years that allows the transfer when there is no other option for a treatment program. It is the first time in 20 years that the statute was used against a ward of the state.
Connecticut corrections officials say the teen will be evaluated at York and could be sent to the Manson Youth Institution, which only houses males, aged 14-20.
Sandra Staub, legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut, criticized the DCF, saying the teen was being targeted because she is transgender.
No other girl in DCF custody has been endangered in this way. The result, if not the intent, is clearly discriminatory.People are discussing this online at #ReThinkMalloy.
Connecticut’s history indicates the youth will be housed based on her sex at birth, although DOC officials say housing decisions are made on a case-by-case evaluation.
Lawyers for the youth asked for a court order barring the transfer on Thursday, but had their request dismissed without prejudice pending a housing decision in the case. Attorney Aaron Romano, one of the teen’s lawyers, said her legal team would oppose any move to place her in Manson, saying her life would be in danger. Romano also said placing the youth in isolation at York would be opposed as a violation of her civil rights.
This is really an embarrassment for DCF and the state on several levels. Had DCF followed through in its child-protection mandate, this child would now be at the Middletown juvenile facility.
This was nothing less than an extraordinary state action and is almost unprecedented. DCF is this youth's parent, and is obligated to fashion treatment and programming.Joette Katz, commissioner of the DCF, says the the action was not taken lightly. In February, while testifying before the legislature’s appropriations committee, seeking the the placement of a secure facility for girls in Middletown, said that the youth had broken the jaw and temporarily blinded a staff member in an assault, saying this was an example of a youth requiring such a facility. The unit is now open on the campus of the former Riverview Children’s Hospital.
--Sarah Eagan, child advocate
Although 'blinded” the staff member in question wrote a narrative about the incident 35 minutes after the incident.
DCF had requested the transfer to York 10 days before Katz’ testimony before the legislature. Lawyer’s questioned the transfer out of DCF custody.
Then why isn't my client in the locked program?A spokesman for DCF said Katz had no comment on Connolly’s question.
--Assistant Public Defender James Connolly
DCF asked for and the court approved a plan to treat this girl as if she were an adult and a criminal, although she is neither.The teen was arrested at a juvenile facility in Needham, MA, but the assault charge was not pursued by prosecutors. No evidence related to the injuries or the incident has ever been presented. No criminal charges are pending against the teen, who had been placed in the Needham facility by Connecticut DCF. The Massachusetts police report on the assault states that it resulted in “apparent minor injuries.”
The incident report filed at Needham’s Meadowridge Academy says the youth had a violent outburst, was upset and insubordinate, and was attempting to walk off the campus when confronted by two staff members. One of the staff members attempted to "bear hug" the teen around the chest, which the teen resisted. After breaking free, the youth punched the staff member "multiple times," bit the staff member on top of the head, and kicked the staff member several times, before the staff member was able to move away. After an internal review of the incident, one of the staff members involved was fired.
Before DCF sent the teen to Needham, she was arrested for assaulting a "safety officer" at the Bridgeport juvenile detention center and committed to DCF as a juvenile delinquent. The judge who signed the order transferring her to York agreed with the DCF assertion that she was "a danger to herself and others."
We will do everything in our power to provide a safe, secure and humane environment for this individual, as we would for any other person under our supervision.
--Commissioner of Prisons James E. Dzurenda
There's an increased risk of the youth being isolated or segregated in whatever adult prison the youth is held.Eagan said that DCF originally took custody of the teen because she was a victim of serious, long-standing abuse.
--Eagan, citing the teen's transgender status
On WNPR last month, Katz discussed the new facility in Middletown.
That’s what’s unique about these kids. They have been the victims of trauma; they have been abused; sexually abused, whatever the circumstances are, and they need that much more of an intensive-based treatment.
The youth does have a history of aggression and difficult behavior, which we see with many traumatized children. But the youth is by far not the only one that DCF deals with. The youth's treatment needs do not support a placement in a non-juvenile facility.
If this youth just spent two months in a juvenile facility without a single incident, then how is it that she is still so imminently dangerous that the only place she can go is an adult prison?
Connolly said the unfortunate reality is that numerous youths at the training school have assaulted staff members on multiple occasions. They are not transferred to the adult system unless they are charged with felony assault. In the event of an assault conviction in adult court, it is not uncommon for the training school to accept a teenager back into the facility after he has served his sentence at Manson, Connolly said.
I believe this all boils down to: they don’t know what to do with my client. They are recognizing her as a female, and they refuse to place her at the Solnit facility [in Middletown]. That, I do not understand, because she is certainly not even close to the most assaultive and aggressive resident that DCF has managed before.The teen has spent more than half her life in DCF custody.
On Friday, attorneys for the teen said the housing decision is that she will not be sent to the Manson Youth Institution. Romano, her attorney for federal court, is working with the DOC on what is hoped will be a rehabilitative plan.
DCF claimed in a lengthy statement that the transfer of the teen "is not in any way related to the youth's gender identity." DCF claims that placing her at the Middletown facility would place other girls and female staff at the facility "in serious jeopardy."