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CT Making Progress on Ending Juvenile Incarceration

Gov. Dannel Malloy wants to close the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in 2018. (Dannel Malloy/
Gov. Dannel Malloy wants to close the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in 2018. (Dannel Malloy/
October 24, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Efforts to end the incarceration of young people in Connecticut are gaining ground, a new report says.

Citing a long history of abuse, high rates of recidivism and high cost, the report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation said every juvenile prison in the country should be closed. Abby Anderson, executive director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, called the timing of the report perfect, and said the findings lend critical support to changes already in progress.

"We are incarcerating a lot fewer kids than we did in the past,” Anderson said; "so much so that it is feasible, just as they said in this report, to really take advantage of this opportunity to really close it down for good."

Gov. Dannel Malloy has called for closing the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in 2018.

Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and co-author of the report, said the practice of incarcerating young people in institutions has been an abject failure, both for the youths and the community.

"The recidivism rates for these institutions range from 70 to 80 percent,” McCarthy said. “So they're not performing their basic community safety function in any way, shape or form."

The cost of keeping young people locked up is extremely high. In 2015, Connecticut spent almost $320,000 thousand dollars for each incarcerated child.

The report recommended that, whenever possible, troubled youths should be given the support and guidance they need to stay at home. For those who need more oversight, Anderson said, there are better alternatives than large institutions.

"Places that are small, more homelike, are actually going to do what we say we want to do, which is to help this young person not go down the wrong path in the future,” she said.

More than a hundred years of efforts to reform juvenile prisons have failed, Anderson said, and it's time to try something new.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT