Children’s advocates in Connecticut are concerned that an increase in police presence after the Newtown school massacre may lead to more arrests, just as the state has moved towards finding alternative punishments. “It is possible for a police officer to bring a positive presence and resources to schools. However, this kind of presence often comes with the unintended consequences of student arrests,” said Lara Herscovitch, deputy director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance. Connecticut, like other states, saw school arrests rise when they adopted “zero tolerance” polices around the year 2000. But recently, the alliance, the state judicial department and other agencies have been working to reduce arrests, with pilot programs in place in Manchester, Windham and Stamford.
In the 2010-11 school year, boys were twice as likely to be arrested as girls — and students in the state’s poorest school districts, such as Hartford and New Haven, were more likely to be arrested than those from the wealthiest districts, according to a report compiled by the Juvenile Justice Alliance. Special education students were nearly three times as likely to be arrested as other students, according to the report. And most students were arrested for minor offenses – such as smoking cigarettes, swearing or hallway scuffles. In the report — Adult Decisions: Connecticut Rethinks Juvenile Arrests the Manchester police chief said he was “frustrated by the number of fights his officers were breaking up at Manchester High School. ‘’ He estimated that about 6 percent of the students were habitually getting into serious trouble.
Connecticut has become a national leader in a “critical but quiet revolution” in policies to reduce youth incarceration, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Juvenile Justice Network and the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The report identifies Connecticut as one of nine states that have led the nation in reducing youth incarceration by adopting policies that support and encourage alternatives. According to the report, youth incarceration in Connecticut declined by 50 percent from 2001 to 2010, reflecting a nationwide shift away from what the authors say was an over-reliance on youth confinement in the 1980s and 1990s. The report credits Connecticut with developing a network of community-based services for young offenders and high-risk youths; placing new restrictions on the ability of law enforcement to commit a child to secure detention; reducing the number of state detention centers; and working to reduce school-based arrests. From 1985 to 2000, the number of youths confined in public facilities in Connecticut increased 37 percent, from 202 to 276, according to the report.