A preliminary review by the Office of the Child Advocate of conditions at the state’s controversial locked treatment program for troubled girls in Middletown raises concerns about the improper use of restraints, inadequate access to mental health services, and inconsistent reporting of abuse and neglect. The report, which was distributed to members of the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS) Advisory Committee and obtained by the Connecticut Health I-Team, cites concerns that youths in both the 12-bed girls’ Pueblo Unit and the larger CJTS facility for boys have been subjected to inappropriate or unsafe restraint, including the use of “prone restraint” on youths with respiratory problems. Prone restraint means that a person is laid in a facedown position. “I know that DCF (the Department of Children and Families) shares our concern regarding the use of potentially dangerous restraint for children with contraindicated medical conditions,” Child Advocate Sarah Eagan wrote. “Our review of these incident reports raises questions regarding the adequacy of staff training on the use of restraint (and de-escalation strategies), and the effective dissemination of critical information regarding children’s special health care needs.”
The report echoes concerns about the CJTS’ use of restraint that were cited in a report a decade ago by the former child advocate and attorney general’s office. The new review comes just six months after the girls’ facility opened — and as state agencies seek to reduce the unnecessary use of restraint among children.
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.
Juveniles in the Hartford judicial district who break the law are far more likely to be locked in a pre-trial detention center following arrests or referrals than juveniles from the state’s other districts, an analysis of data from the judicial department shows. More than a third, or 34 percent, of new delinquency cases in Hartford juvenile court ended up in secure detention, compared to 17 percent in Bridgeport and 20 percent in New Haven, according to fiscal year 2011 data released by the judicial branch. In Middletown, Waterford and Willimantic, fewer than 10 percent of juveniles arrested were sent to detention.