The Connecticut General Assembly’s Committee on Children met on Wednesday to learn more about the conditions at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School for boys and the nearby Pueblo Unit for girls.
It follows a recent Office of the Child Advocate report which found delinquent youths have been subject to unlawful and repeated restraint and isolation at both locations.
The Department of Children and Families operates both facilities under review. DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said that many improvements have been made at the state's juvenile detention facilities, including a stronger focus on rehabilitating troubled youth.
"CJTS offers a menu of individual and group clinical services that are the envy of many other jurisdictions throughout the country, and certainly exceed anything found in adult systems," Katz said on Wednesday before the Committee on Children.
Katz told state lawmakers that the population at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School for boys in Middletown has never been lower than it is today. She said the frequency of restraints being used on the youths is also declining.
A just-released report by the advocacy group The Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance calls for the detention facilities to close, saying the boys’ facility should be shut down within two years. The girls unit, the report said, should close much sooner.
Robert Francis with the Alliance said earlier that incarceration is not an environment for boys and girls with mental health issues to get the services they need.
"We still may need locked facilities for a certain group of young people who have committed pretty serious offenses for a period of time," Francis said, "But we're talking about smaller facilities, closer to home, with many more services available to them."
Francis said that about 70 percent of the young people in the facilities have mental health diagnoses. Many are trauma survivors.
The report calls on Connecticut to learn from the other states with community-based programs that have improved outcomes and cost savings.
DCF Commissioner Joette Katz will be a guest on WNPR's Where We Live on Thursday, August 13.
This report includes information from WSHU Public Radio.