Transgender Teen In Adult Prison For Nearly Two Weeks

Apr 21, 2014

Credit Joshua Davis

Attorneys for the teen and the state are moving towards an agreement on "conditions of confinement" as a 16-year-old transgender girl reaches the two-week mark for being detained at Connecticut's women's prison. Her lawyers have been adamant that she be removed from York Correctional Institution as soon as possible.    

Jane Doe is suing Katz, DCF and the Department of Correction for violating her civil rights, saying there are federal laws to protect juveniles from being detained in a correctional facility. 

The Equity Project is just one of several LGBT and juvenile justice organizations nationwide that have raised concerns about the state Department of Children and Families transferring the teen with a history of trauma to an adult prison instead of a juvenile facility.

Christina Gilbert, the Director of the Equity Project, explained that LGBT youth are over-represented in the juvenile justice system. The organization was shocked to hear that a juvenile without an adult charge or conviction is now in a Connecticut prison.

Gilbert said that LGBT youth are often isolated in detention or prison settings, and it's very harmful to them. "There are laws that require sight and sound separation when juveniles are placed in adult facilities," she said. "The default way to do this is to isolate a young person."

Gilbert said there's a wealth of evidence about the negative impacts on anyone in isolation, especially children. "It can have long-term impacts on mental health," she said, "[and] an increase [in] suicide risk, or risk for depression. Really, physical and mental health; long-lasting consequences."

Jane Doe's attorneys have said that since her transfer to York, the teen has been housed in the prison's medical unit in what her attorneys described as "near isolation." 

What's particularly startling to advocates is the fact DCF just opened a locked unit for girls with significant issues in Middletown, but it refuses to place the teen there.

Last week, DCF Commissioner Joette Katz told WNPR that the teen could be moved to a juvenile facility in the future, but must first show progress in "conduct control" before that happens. DCF contends the teen has a history of aggression, and the behavior could endanger other girls at the locked unit in Middletown.