Many incarcerated young people struggle with undiagnosed, untreated mental illness and unsupported educational disabilities. CCA attorneys intervene to access appropriate services to help youth succeed in school and look forward to a secure future.

CCA helps with educational support, special education needs, school discipline issues and access to mental health care. Our legal advocacy and representation is supported by a team of multidisciplinary professionals from UConn School of Medicine and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

“Children without this all-inclusive support often fail to succeed in school and community and eventually become casualties of the criminal justice system. The Center for Children’s Advocacy has proven to be creative and effective in developing community-based collaborative programs that address the needs of these children.”

Susan Storey, Connecticut’s Chief Public Defender

Proven Success

  • higher rate of successful school re-entry
  • better access to necessary mental health services
  • more community-based dispositions
  • higher rate of successful completion of probation
  • lower recidivism

Girls Juvenile Justice Project

An outgrowth of the Center’s juvenile justice work was the recognition that the needs of girls in the juvenile justice system were ignored. CCA formed the Girls Juvenile Justice Project to promote gender-responsive policies and practices and alternatives to incarceration. We helped secure legislation that requires gender-specific programming, development of a girls’ juvenile justice plan, and prevention of incarceration for status offenders.

Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED)

The Center partners with the national Center for Children’s Law and Policy to address the disproportionate rate at which Black and Latino youth are arrested in school, arrested in Department of Children and Families placements, suspended from school, and expelled.

Black and Latino youth are over-represented in the juvenile justice system and treated more punitively once involved with the system. CCA partnerships with state and local agencies push for changes to correct these inequities.

  • We provide legal representation and advocacy to help at-risk youth get support to stay in school and away from juvenile justice involvement
  • We provide training for the state’s probation officers and for youth, parents and community providers.
  • We work inside juvenile facilities to improve interactions between youth, and between youth and staff, and reduce re-arrests. The success of this “Deep End Diversion” resulted in requests for expansion to facilities throughout the state. Watch a video about this restorative justice work here. Read more about Deep End Diversion here
  • Our systemic work includes legislative advocacy, class action and administrative advocacy, and participation on state task forces to reduce disproportionate minority contact, improve community-based services, conditions of confinement, and re-entry and transition planning for at-risk youth.

Community Re-Entry Assistance for Hartford Area and New Britain Youth

CCA is working with local partners to identify and assist youth up to the age of 24 who are returning to the community from confinement. Legal staff helps youth understand the collateral consequences a record may carry, provides help to erase or expunge records, helps youth get back into school, get a birth certificate, driver’s license or ID, re-enter DCF care, access benefits, and secure a job or vocational license.

Attorney Marisa Halm
Office: 860-570-5327 x228
Mobile: 860-566-0764

Restorative Justice: Community Circles and Deep End Diversion

CCA’s Deep End Diversion Project works inside juvenile facilities (Connecticut Juvenile Training School and Waterford County School) to improve interactions between youth and between youth and staff, and reduce re-arrests. The success of “Deep End Diversion” resulted in requests for expansion to facilities throughout the state. Read more here.

Education vs. Incarceration: The Real Cost of Failing Our Kids

Education v Incarceration

Produced by Connecticut Public Broadcasting, the documentary examines the state’s alarming incarceration of children.

From the CPTV website: “For the first time in recent history, five states now spend more money on incarceration than education. Connecticut is one of those states.” The documentary includes interviews with Martha Stone, executive director of the Center for Children’s Advocacy.

Joe struggled in school for years.

Joe’s struggles began long before his arrest for a school cafeteria fight. He is only 13, but has a long history of academic failure. In one school year, Joe had over 60 absences and 50 days of out-of-school suspension. He missed more than half the year.

Despite an early diagnosis of depressive disorder, difficulty regulating his emotions, and a long history of academic failure, Joe was never evaluated for special education. School reports noted severe behavior problems, and Joe’s grades reflected his struggle.

The school had a legal obligation to refer Joe for special education, but no evaluation was done until CCA got involved. CCA reviewed Joe’s educational records and helped his mother request evaluations.

Joe’s diagnostic evaluations noted a language-based learning disability. With CCA’s involvement, the school agreed that Joe should not be expelled. He was found eligible for special education and placed in a program with therapeutic supports and behavioral redirection. Joe flourished academically and behaviorally, and was not suspended once during the remainder of the school year.

He continues to receive evaluations to insure that progress continues, and the school social worker describes him as a role model for other students.

Proven Success

Our work in Bridgeport and Hartford achieved:

  • Memoranda of Agreement between the school system and police department to reduce reliance on police at school
  • 40% reduction in school-based arrests in Bridgeport
  • 57% reduction in school-based arrests in Hartford
  • 32% reduction in suspensions in Bridgeport
  • Hartford school-based diversion pilot project (response to behavioral issues without police involvement)

Read about successes in the Center’s report on Preventing School Push Out for Minority Students.

2016-2017 outcomes of the Center’s efforts on behalf of youth involved with the juvenile justice system are here.


Alicia B. Expulsion Complaint
Center for Children’s Advocacy, with co-counsel National Center for Youth Law and K&L Gates, filed Alicia B. vs. Malloy, challenging the inadequate education of Connecticut students who are expelled from school. Alicia B. represented two middle school students who effectively received no education during their expulsions, despite their rights under the state constitution. As a result of the litigation, the State passed legislation that required expelled students be educated in accordance with standards.

  • Alicia B Expulsion Complaint (December 2015) Alicia B.; Tobias J., v. Governor Dannel Malloy; Dianna Wentzell, commissioner of the Sate Dept of Education; Allan Taylor, Chair, State Board of Education; Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, Superintendent, Hartford Board of Education; Matthew Geary, Superintendent, Manchester Board of Education; James Thompson, Jr., Superintendent, Bloomfield Board of Education.
  •  Alicia B. Settlement Agreement (July 2018): Improvements for Education for Expelled Students in Connecticut. As a result of the litigation, the State passed legislation that requires that expelled students be educated in accordance with standards developed to ensure educational progress, requires state-issued guidance and resources for school districts, and requires monitoring and addressing racial disparities in expulsions. 
  • Expulsion Guidance Issued as Result of Alicia B. Settlement, State Department of Education, clarifies circumstances under which a school district can expel a student, student must have sufficient notice that an offense may be expellable, procedures for expulsion hearings, right to request postponement, right to examine evidence and cross examine witnesses, provision allowing students to petition for early readmission, and guidance for students who move between school districts.

Manson Youth Institution
Settlement Agreement, June 2021

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, conditions facing young people at MYI were particularly stark given the pandemic-specific restrictions imposed by DOC. They were receiving virtually no education other than remote packet instruction, little access to mental health services, and extremely limited out-of-cell time. CCA engaged national partners, the National Center for Youth Law and the Juvenile Law Center, to request that the DOC drastically improve conditions. Read more here.

Alternative Education

Suspension and Expulsion

Conditions of Confinement

Dual Status Youth

Girls and the Juvenile Justice System

  • Girls and the Juvenile Justice System Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJPD), 2016
    Nearly 30% of juvenile arrests are girls or young women, often girls of color and living in poverty. They are victims of violence, including physical and sexual abuse, and are typically nonviolent and pose little risk to public safety. Their involvement with the juvenile justice system usually does more harm than good.


Information for Parents of Youth who have been Arrested


Legal Rights in Detention and Returning to the Community

Mental Health 

Understanding Juvenile Car Theft: A National Issue, Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, February 2021

For more information, contact Marisa Halm, JD, Director, Team Child Juvenile Justice Project