State leaders launch review of juvenile justice system

Connecticut

The State of Connecticut is about to take a long look at its juvenile justice system.

State leaders from the legislature, judiciary, and the Governor’s office announce a comprehensive review of the system Tuesday morning. 

When people do bad things, they get locked up. That is how the criminal justice system works. When you lock up teenagers, however, there is a very good chance they will turn into life-long criminals. That is why, about a decade ago, Connecticut started finding other ways to deal with youthful offenders.

“Instead of having the child being referred to the court system, they go to a community organization that is actually based with lawyers and judges,” said State Representative Toni Walker (D-New Haven). “To teach them balance and restorative justice and how they have to be responsible for their actions.”

It worked. The number of youths locked up went down by more than two thirds in a decade. It’s not perfect, however. In recent weeks, we’ve seen a string of car thefts police say were done by teenagers, and police complain those same teens are often back on the streets days after they’re arrested.

The state has a task force with judges, lawyers, lawmakers, and police that will now do a thorough assessment of that system.

“The task force will determine what next steps are needed to ensure youth are getting all of their needs met in the community and how resources can be best aligned and invested to strengthen public safety and outcomes for our youth,” explained Melissa McCaw, Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management.

They will look at strategies to improve public safety and help young offenders re-enter society successfully. The review is part of the national “Improving Outcomes For Youth” initiative.

Connecticut saw a 17 percent decline in referrals to juvenile court between 2015 and 2018, but the state still faces ethnic and racial disparities

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