Target: Joette Katz, Commissioner for the Department of Children and Families
Goal: Tell Connecticut officials that prison is no place for an abused child
A 16 year old transgender girl in Connecticut has been sent to an adult women’s prison, without having ever been accused or convicted of a crime. “Jane Doe,” whose real name has not been released to protect her identity as a minor, has been in and out of solitary confinement in the York Correctional Institute since the beginning of April. She was transferred there by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) from a juvenile facility, because of her history of violent behavior.
Jane has been in the custody of DCF since she was 5 years old, due to her father’s incarceration and her mother’s various addictions. Transgender youth are already at an exponentially higher risk of bullying, abuse, and suicide, even when they are not in foster homes. The foster care system is meant to protect vulnerable children, and yet Jane has a long history of horrific physical and sexual abuse, both from members of her own family and from several people who were put in charge of her foster care. Children who have experienced and witnessed such abuse often act out violently, as it is the only way they have learned to deal with the world. The appropriate treatment for trauma cases such as this involves intensive therapy in a highly supportive setting. The DCF failed to protect her while she was in their custody, and they are failing her again.
Although Jane is inarguably delinquent, her violent behavior and her personal trauma should be dealt with using finer tools than criminal incarceration. Adult prison is an inappropriate environment for the care and treatment of an abused child, no matter how troubled she is. Being held in a criminal detention facility puts her at a higher risk of continued failure and deprives her of the kind of therapeutic adult and peer relationships that she needs if she is ever going to heal and overcome her difficult past. Please tell the Connecticut DCF to find an alternative for Jane.
Dear Ms. Katz,
Research has shown that juveniles convicted as adults and relegated to the adult justice system frequently display increased recidivism and greater risk to public safety. Since Jane Doe has not even been convicted of a crime, her incarceration is even more questionable and reprehensible.
An adult prison is not a place of healing for a child who has experienced so much trauma. While Jane’s case is undoubtedly complicated, criminal incarceration is an excessively blunt tool for such a delicate situation. Please work with advocates to find an appropriate alternative for Jane’s treatment and rehabilitation.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Shayan Saynal via Wikimedia Commons