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CT Cities Work on Detention Alternatives for Kids of Color

PHOTO: The Juvenile Detention Center at Bridgeport. The city has a new Juvenile Review Board which embraces diversion options, recognizing the historically disproportionate number of kids of color who have ended up in detention because they acted out at school. Photo credit: State of Connecticut Judicial Branch.
PHOTO: The Juvenile Detention Center at Bridgeport. The city has a new Juvenile Review Board which embraces diversion options, recognizing the historically disproportionate number of kids of color who have ended up in detention because they acted out at school. Photo credit: State of Connecticut Judicial Branch.
December 15, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. – This has been a year of progress for juvenile justice in Connecticut, particularly in dealing with racial disparities when children are arrested at school.

Jason Szanyi, a staff attorney with the Center for Children's Law and Policy, says his group has worked with four Connecticut cities over the past year.

The focus has been on schools where historically, a disproportionate number of children of color have ended up in detention because they acted out at school.

"And Bridgeport and Hartford in particular, they made formal agreements between the police departments and the schools, to say, 'We want to reserve arrests for only those situations where it's absolutely warranted,'" he points out.

Szanyi says an effort to adopt this approach through legislation at a statewide level failed to garner enough votes in this year's General Assembly, but he is hopeful progress can be made with lawmakers in the year ahead.

Szanyi says Bridgeport now handles these kinds of cases with a new Juvenile Review Board.

"A panel of folks, some from the community, but from the juvenile justice system,” he explains. “And it's a diversion option for kids who may have gotten into trouble, may have some needs – but it allows them to get those services without going through the juvenile justice system."

In addition to Bridgeport and Hartford, Szanyi says his group is also working with collaboratives in New Haven and Waterbury.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is currently working in 300 counties across the country with the goal of helping jurisdictions safely reduce their juvenile detention populations.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - CT