TeamChild Juvenile Justice Project
Reducing Juvenile Justice Involvement
Many juvenile offenders struggle with undiagnosed, untreated mental illness and unsupported educational disabilities. The Center’s attorneys intervene to access appropriate services to help youth succeed in school and look forward to a safe and secure future.
We help 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.
- higher rate of successful school re-entry
- more students receive necessary mental health services
- more community-based dispositions
- higher rate of successful completion of probation
- lower recidivism
“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
Girls Juvenile Justice Project
- An outgrowth of TeamChild was the recognition that needs of girls in the juvenile justice system were being ignored. We 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 has partnered 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 DCF (Department of Children and Families) placements, suspended from school, and expelled.
Black and Latino youth are over-represented in the juvenile justice system. They are suspended and expelled at a greater rate, and treated more punitively once involved with the state’s juvenile justice system. Our partnerships with state and local agencies push for changes to correct these inequities.
- We provide legal representation and advocacy to keep at-risk youth away from juvenile justice involvement and help them get support to stay in school.
- We provide training for the state’s probation officers and for youth, parents and community providers.
- We work 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 this “Deep End Diversion” resulted in requests for expansion to facilities throughout the state. Watch a video about this important 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.
Nationally, minority youth are more likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system and are treated more harshly than their white peers. Produced by Connecticut Public Broadcasting, The Color of Justice examines racial bias in the juvenile justice system in Connecticut and throughout the U.S. The documentary examines the forces that have shaped inequities in the state’s juvenile justice system, long-term trends, and the ways in which Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) affects Connecticut youth.
The documentary includes interviews with Martha Stone, executive director of the Center for Children’s Advocacy.
Produced by Connecticut Public Broadcasting, this important 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. It costs approximately $12,000 per year to keep a student in school in Connecticut. It costs more than $31,000 a year to keep an individual in prison. From 1987 to 2006, Connecticut more than tripled its General Fund spending on corrections, from $193 million $661 million. Over the same period, the state’s General Fund spending on higher education increased far less dramatically, from $557 million to $644 million.”
The documentary includes interviews with Martha Stone, executive director of the Center for Children’s Advocacy.
Jason’s academic struggles began long before the day he was arrested at school for a fight in the cafeteria. He’s only 13, but has a long history of academic failure . . and in the past school year had over 60 unverified absences and 50 days of outside-school suspension. He lost more than half the year of education.
Despite an early diagnosis of depressive disorder, difficulty controlling his anger and a long history of academic failure, Jason had never been evaluated for special education. Teacher reports continually noted severe behavior problems. Jason’s grades reflected his struggles, revealing performance significantly below grade level in every subject.
The school has a legal obligation to refer Jason to special education, but no evaluations were done until the Center for Children’s Advocacy became involved. The Center reviewed Jason’s educational records and helped his mother request evaluations.
Jason’s diagnostic evaluations determined a language-based learning disability and the school agreed that Jason should not be expelled. He was found eligible for special education and placed in a therapeutic program where he receives therapeutic supports and a structured behavioral redirection program. He has flourished, both academically and behaviorally, and received an A or B in each of his classes. Jason was not suspended once during the remainder of the school year.
School staff are working with Jason on effective communication to help him develop a mechanism to cope with his emotions, and he will continue to receive evaluations to insure that his progress continues. The school social worker describes him as a role model for other students.
Our work in Bridgeport and Hartford has achieved:
- Memoranda of Agreement between the school system and the police department that reduce schools’ reliance on police intervention and arrests
- 40% reduction in school-based arrests in Bridgeport schools
- 57% reduction in school-based arrests in Hartford schools
- 32% reduction in school suspensions in Bridgeport
- Pilot School Based Diversion Initiatives (response to behavioral issues without police involvement) in three Hartford schools with the highest rates of arrest
Read about successes in the Center’s report on Preventing School PushOut for Minority Students and Action Network’s DMC Juvenile Justice newsletter.
Publications, Presentations and Resources
- Addressing the Intersections of Juvenile Justice Involvement and Youth Homelessness: Principles for Change, Collaborating for Change, 2017
- Expulsion Complaint: Alicia B., PPA through her Parent and Next Friend, Cynthia B; Tobias J., PPA through his Parent and Next Friend, Robert 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. Dec 2015. Center for Children’s Advocacy, National Center for Youth Law, K&L Gates, LLP
- Students First: Educational Opportunity for Students in Connecticut’s Juvenile Justice System
Center for Children’s Advocacy Presentation to the Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee, Nov 19, 2015
- Educational Advocacy for Youth Ages 16 – 21
Presentation by Center for Children’s Advocacy attorneys Marisa Halm and Zoe Stout, Dec 2014
- Legal Rights in Juvenile Detention
Handbook written by the Center for Children’s Advocacy in collaboration with the Connecticut Judicial Branch. The book answers questions that youth in detention may have about their legal rights and the responsibilities of the detention center.
- Life After Lockup – Your Legal Rights when You Come Back to School and Community
Written by the Center for Children’s Advocacy, this legal rights of youth returning to school and the community from CJTS, Juvenile Detention or Residential Placement. These youth are often dealing with parole and probation officers, DCF, public defenders and school officials. This important book helps them understand their legal rights and what they can do to participate in the decisions that affect them.
- Flyers for Youth Leaving Lock-Up – How to Get Back into School
Life after Manson (ages 14-17)
Life after Manson (ages 18+)
- Blind Spot: The Impact of Missed Early Warning Signs on Children’s Mental Health
Andrea Spencer, PhD, 2012
- OJJDP Report on Connecticut Families With Service Needs
Preliminary data shows that changes are creating positive results.
- Vera Institute Report: Making Court the Last Resort
Supporting Families in Crisis
- NDTAC: The Importance of Literacy for Youth Involved in the Juvenile Justice System
- A Second Reassessment of Disproportionate Minority Contact in Connecticut’s Juvenile Justice System
Spectrum Associates, 2009
- Families With Service Needs: Outcome Findings Demonstrate Success
Excerpts from Connecticut Families With Service Needs Project Report, Justice Research Center 2010
- Families with Service Needs Advisory Board Final Report
Connecticut General Assembly – June 2010
- Invisible Students: The Role of Alternative and Adult Education in the Connecticut School-to-Prison Pipeline
A Better Way Foundation, December 2011
- Education vs. Incarceration: The Real Cost of Failing Our Kids
Connecticut Public Broadcasting documentary featuring interviews with Center for Children’s Advocacy
executive director Martha Stone. This important documentary examines the state’s alarming incarceration of children.
- DMC E-News
Connecticut is one of 16 states working with the MacArthur Foundation to develop models for juvenile justice reform and to provide leadership to other states and jurisdictions. This issue highlights replication of the DMC Action Network model by the Hartford and Bridgeport communities. Since May 2011, the Center for Children’s Advocacy, Connecticut and the Center for Children’s Law and Policy,Washington, DC having been assisting DMC workgroups and made significant strides to reduce school-based arrests, expand use of juvenile review boards and family support centers, and use graduated incentives for children on probation to reinforce positive behaviors.
- Girls and the Juvenile Justice System
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJPD), 2016
Nearly 30 percent of juveniles arrested are girls or young women. Often girls of color and girls living in poverty, they are victims of violence, including physical and sexual abuse. They are typically nonviolent and pose little or no risk to public safety. And their involvement with the juvenile justice system usually does more harm than good.
For more information, contact Marisa Halm, JD, Director, TeamChild Juvenile Justice Project