Judicial System In-service Materials


Tow Youth Justice Institute 2021 Winter Newsletter

In This Issue:
• Student Events
• 2021 JJPOC Recommendations
• Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force - Young Adult Listening Session
• 2021 Transforming Youth Justice Leadership Development Program Cohort #5 Virtual Graduation
• Introducing the Community Expertise Workgroup


Tow Youth Justice Institute Issue Brief: Juvenile Justice Reform and the Importance of the Community Based Diversion System

Decades of research have shown that formally processing youth in the juvenile justice system does not prevent future crime and, instead, increases the likelihood of future criminal behavior by deterring psychosocial development.


Community-Based Diversion focuses on identifying and addressing the underlying needs/symptoms of the behavior and putting early intervention supports in place. In order to increase diversion, it is critical to include police, schools, families, the court and child welfare systems, as well as other stakeholders such as faith-based organizations and neighborhood groups. This collective “community” of diversion supports requires a “coordinating hub” to mobilize and streamline the array of community-based interventions with a capacity to meet the individual needs of at-risk children.


WARRIOR VS. GUARDIAN: A Paradigm Shift in Youth Policing

Tow Youth Justice Institute Issue Brief, Fall 2020

The relationship between community and police and, more specifically for this brief, youth and police is a complicated one. Research studies have documented this relationship as especially inequitable for youth who are 1) from urban environments, 2) from lower socio-economic areas, 3) male, and 4) a minority. “Black boys are policed like no other demographic. They are policed on the street, in the mall, in school, in their homes, and on social media. Police stop black boys on the vaguest of descriptions – "black boys running," "two black males in jeans, one in a gray hoodie," "black male in athletic gear." Young black males are treated as if they are "out of place" not only when they are in white, middle-class neighborhoods, but also when they are hanging out in public spaces or sitting on their own front porches.” 

For many youth, their first encounter with the justice system, whether it be in schools, their neighborhoods or social service settings, is with the police. These interactions can lead to a youth’s entry into the juvenile justice system or could be an opportunity for positive intervention. “The nature and circumstances of this contact can have a significant and lasting impression on a young person.” 


Podcast Episode: ARE YOU LISTENING? When a parent is incarcerated, the relationship with their kid is changed forever

Episode of PodCast Ear Hustle: ARE YOU LISTENING? When a parent is incarcerated, the relationship with their kid is changed forever. 10/21/20, Season 6

Incarceration doesn’t just separate a parent from his or her child, it changes that relationship forever, often leaving wounds that may never heal. We talk with kids who have incarcerated parents, as well as a formerly incarcerated mom of four, and hear why sometimes acceptance is the only way forward.  

Launched in 2017, Ear Hustle was the first podcast created and produced in prison, featuring stories of the daily realities of life inside California’s San Quentin State Prison, shared by those living it. Co-founded by Bay Area artist Nigel Poor alongside Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams — who were incarcerated at the time — the podcast now tells stories from both inside prison and from the outside, post-incarceration.


Tow Youth Justice Institute: Improving Outcomes for Youth Task Force Makes Recommendations

Improving Outcomes for Youth (IOYouth) Statewide Task Force

In June 2019, leadership from Connecticut’s three branches of government—Governor Ned Lamont, Judge Patrick Carroll, and Representative Toni Walker – launched the Improving Outcomes for Youth (IOYouth) Statewide Task Force with the goal of assessing whether recent juvenile justice system reforms have been implemented as intended and have had the expected impact. The Task Force’s charge was to determine what next steps are needed to ensure that policies, practices, and resource allocation decisions are aligned with what the research says works to strengthen public safety and improve outcomes for youth. The IOYouth Task Force, co-chaired by Rep. Walker and Melissa McCaw, Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, included other elected officials, representatives from all three branches of government, state and local juvenile justice system leaders, and advocates, among others.


Click here to see a summary of the IOYouth Task Force Recommendations, or here for the full task force recommendation presentation.


Office of the Child Advocate Releases Investigative Report: Police Calls from Waterbury Elementary Schools 

During the 2018-19 school year, the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) received multiple concerns related to Waterbury Public Schools’ (WPS) involvement of local law enforcement to address the behavior of young students with disabilities. Due to the serious nature of the allegations, OCA determined that conducting a broader investigation was warranted. OCA is an independent state oversight agency tasked by state statute to investigate and publicly report on the efficacy of child-serving systems, review complaints of persons or entities concerning the actions of any state or municipal agency providing services to children, and issue reports and recommendations to the public. 

OCA’s investigation found that in the six month period of September 2018 through March 2019, there were approximately 200 calls to police made by Waterbury elementary and Pre-K through Grade 8 schools as a result of a child’s behavior, typically either a behavioral health crisis or an act of physical aggression by a child or multiple children, with children as young as 4 and 5 the subject of calls to police. OCA found that more than half of the schools called police to respond to children more often than they called Emergency Mobile Crisis intervention teams. 

OCA’s report contains numerous recommendations to increase transparency and accountability for vulnerable children and increase strategic and cost-effective supports for students and teachers. Waterbury Public Schools leadership acknowledged historical concerns identified in this report and is committed to transformative change. 


Resources for Incarcerated Parents and Their Children

Please click on the link for information regarding a program in CT for children and families impacted by parental incarceration – Connecting Through Literacy: Incarcerated Parents, Their Children, and Caregivers (CLICC).  CLICC is a Connecticut-based non-profit program which uses mentoring and literacy activities to strengthen communication and deepen bonds between children and their incarcerated parents. The goal is to reduce recidivism rates for incarcerated mothers and fathers, while also reducing the shame and stigma that their children can experience.


No Place for a Child: Alternatives for Children Under 12 in Connecticut's Juvenile Justice System

CT Voices for Children report: No Place for a Child: Alternatives for Children Under 12 in Connecticut's Juvenile Justice System

Converging research suggests that children are not able to understand the legal process, that court involvement can harm the well-being of involved children, and that this can have long-term negative implications for public safety. In their new report, "No Place for a Child: Alternatives for Children Under 12 in Connecticut's Juvenile Justice System," CT Voices for Children conclude that raising the minimum age from seven to twelve and diverting young children to age-appropriate services is a superior alternative to the existing process. These recommendations align with that of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee (JJPOC).

 CT Voices for Children report: No Place for a Child: Alternatives for Children Under 12 in Connecticut's Juvenile Justice System


Tow Youth Justice Institute - Winter 2020 Newsletter

Special Edition Newsletter, celebrating their 5th anniversary. The Tow Youth Justice Institute was founded on October 14, 2014 to gather experts in the field of youth justice for the state of Connecticut and nationally and be a resource toward work to reform the juvenile justice system and provide University of New Haven students opportunities for experiential education and leadership development. The Institute is also a research partner for Connecticut’s Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee (JJPOC).


State may need a new agency to handle detention of minors

Hartford Courant article by Josh Kovner

With a federal civil-rights probe beginning Dec. 4 at the Manson Youth Institute in Cheshire, a national consultant Thursday recommended the responsibility of detaining minors be transferred from the Department of Correction and the Judicial Branch to a newly created, free-standing youth authority.

No other state in the country has both its judicial branch and its correction department involved in the detention of youth under 18, Jason Szanyi of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy told a committee of lawmakers, advocates and juvenile-justice officials. The panel, called the Juvenile Justice Policy Oversight Committee, hired the Washington, D.C.-based consultant and will forward a decision on whether to create the new department to the legislature next year.


New law bars public from courtrooms when teens are charged with the most serious felonies

Hartford Courant article by Edmund Mahoney

State prosecutors are considering a challenge to a new state law that closes courtrooms to the public and keeps records secret when teenagers aged 15-, 16- and 17-years old are charged with the most serious felonies, such as murder, armed robbery and rape.

The days-old law - it became effective Oct. 1 - is one of the most visible aspects of an evolving package of measures developed over the last half dozen years or so by juvenile justice advocates and their legislative allies with the stated goal of keeping troubled teens out of the criminal justice system.


Why Status Offense Laws in Connecticut Have Changed

ISSUE BRIEF, A Publication of the Tow Youth Justice Institute 

The handling of status offenses of youth has been a topic for discussion across the country and each state has taken
different approaches in their response to these actions. Definitions are provided [in the brief], but as a general statement, a status
offense is a conduct that would not be unlawful if committed by an adult but is unlawful only because of a child’s or youth’s
legal minor status.

Although significant progress has been made in many states, every year "thousands of kids across the United States are
handcuffed, taken to court, or locked up for just these misbehaviors”.  “Using the justice system to respond to these cases
makes little sense, particularly when the primary options available to law enforcement, judges, and other system players
relate to protecting public safety, not addressing kids’ needs”. In some states, a child who commits a status offense may
end up in juvenile court. Other states have increased the use of residential placement for offenders, and others emphasize
community-based programs. Today, most states refer to status offenders as "children or juveniles in need of supervision,
services, or care." A few states designate some status offenders as "dependent" or "neglected children". 


Scathing report on conditions for imprisoned youth: Child Advocate says system of incarcerating youth needs 'massive overhaul'

CT Mirror Article 

The Office of the Child Advocate released a scathing report on the substandard conditions in state facilities for imprisoned and detained youth and called for an overhaul of the system.

The child advocate’s office found that incarcerated youths, particularly boys who have complex needs and are imprisoned in the adult correctional system, are the most likely to lose meaningful access to education, rehabilitative services and visits with family, and are more likely to to be placed in isolation. In some cases, the report said, the conditions for youth may violate state and federal law.


Tow Youth Justice Institute Issue Brief, 2018-Issue VI: The Intersection of Juvenile Justice and Child Protection: Dual Status Youth

Dual status youth are often an invisible population and experience a myriad of challenges. While states have a general understanding that there are many youth being served by both their child welfare and juvenile justice systems, in the majority of states, the movement has not been sufficient toward collaborating to better serve this very vulnerable population. Research estimates of youth in the juvenile justice system with child welfare involvement is upwards of 50%. 

In recent years, better data collection and analysis in many localities has helped spur the development of strategies to reduce disparities among youth in contact with the juvenile justice system. This work is paving the way for a more equitable juvenile justice system that will treat youth fairly regardless of their race or ethnicity and address many issues common to the child welfare system.


Podcast: Caught, From WNYC Radio

All kids make dumb mistakes. But depending on your zip code, race, or just bad luck, those mistakes can have a lasting impact. Mass incarceration starts young. In Caught: The Lives of Juvenile Justice, hear from kids about the moment they collided with law and order, and how it changed them forever. Episode 8 is especially relevant.

Episode 8: 'I Want Someone to Love Me Even for a Second'
Girls make up only a small fraction of the incarcerated juvenile population, but girls often land in detention because they have experienced some form of trauma: abusive families, bad experiences in the foster care system, and especially sexual abuse. Policy experts even use the term "sexual abuse to prison pipeline," and they say it's why incarcerating a young girl perpetuates more negative behavior and makes it harder to exit the system. Desiree is a young woman who has bounced between foster care, detention centers, and residential treatment centers since she was 10. Even though she has been the repeated victim of abuse, she says she's been made to feel like she's the problem...and she's angry about it. But she has her own ideas about how to make things better and she's making her voice heard.


A Journey Through Connecticut’s Juvenile Justice System Reform

What’s next for Juvenile Justice

While not specifically laid out with a measurable goal, several other critical factors have been identified by the JJPOC as important to
the achievement of its three strategic goals. Significant effort needs to be placed on ending the school-to-prison pipeline, improving
safety and health conditions and phase out secure facilities, supporting youth in their communities, and eliminating racial and ethnic
disparities across the juvenile justice system.


Today, Connecticut is widely considered a model for how a state can improve its juvenile justice system, while improving public
safety and overall youth outcomes. Increasingly, youth charged with minor offenses are diverted from court involvement, and may
instead receive behavioral health supports and other programming proven effective. 


Addressing The School to Prison Pipeline

CT Post Article 

"A spike in local school based arrests and a budget crisis that threatens to strip the city school district of  what little counseling support it has does not bode well for those attempting to break the School to Prison  pipeline. Still, a panel of warriors trying to stop the large scale incarceration of students of color offered a  room filled with educators, school board hopefuls and lawmakers their best thinking on the struggle and  may just have picked up some foot soldiers...."

"Leon Smith, an attorney and director for the Racial Justice Project at the Center for Children's Advocacy, said the School to Prison Pipeline begins when kids are as young as 4 get suspended from school. Among all students, black and Latino males are two to three times more likely to be suspended than white boys. Black girls are five times more likely to be suspended than white girls. Studies also show that minority students are far more likely than white students to get into trouble for similar behaviors. Minority students are far more likely to be viewed as older, less innocent and troublemakers than white students, Smith said."


 Mass Incarceration and Children's Outcomes—Criminal Justice Policy is Education Policy

Article from the Economic Policy Institute by Leila Morsy and Richard Rothstein

Educators have paid too little heed to this criminal justice crisis. Criminal justice reform should be a policy priority for educators who are committed to improving the achievement of African American children. While reform of federal policy may seem implausible in a Trump administration, educators can seize opportunities for such advocacy at state and local levels because many more parents are incarcerated in state than in federal prisons. In 2014, over 700,000 prisoners nationwide were serving sentences of a year or longer for nonviolent crimes. Over 600,000 of these were in state, not federal, prisons.

Research in criminal justice, health, sociology, epidemiology, and economics demonstrates that when parents are incarcerated, children do worse across cognitive and noncognitive outcome measures.