HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Juvenile Justice Reform isn’t easy. Thursday night all the players are engaged from judges and Court Support Services to Public Defenders and Prosecutors – as well as police departments.
State Senator John Kissel, a Republican from Enfield, is one of the leaders drilling down into how the state should make changes that protect teens and the public.
“We need to make substantial strides such that the danger to the public escalating is brought back under control,” said Kissel.
Lawmakers say gaps in how the system treats a troubled teen were shocking to them.
“We realize these issues are very complicated,” remarked House Minority Leader State Representative Vin Candelora.
News 8 asked officials at the judicial branch for answers. Who can be arrested? And where do they go?
Officials tell us, people, age 10 to 18 can be arrested.
Police officers can give a verbal warning, conference with parents, refer the child to a juvenile review board for community service. Law enforcement can also choose to arrest and release a teen pending a court appearance. They can also arrest and hold a juvenile for up to six hours – while police seek an “order to detain” in a detention center. A judge has to sign off.
There are two detention centers one in Hartford and Bridgeport. A juvenile court appearance is required the next day. The judge can then release, or keep the teen.
Reasons for keeping them – are they a risk to public safety, flight risk, held for another jurisdiction. If they are “adjudicated delinquent” they can be ordered probation supervision with residential placement.
The biggest gap? Those who are charged with a crime and are waiting for a court date.
State Representative Steve Stafstrom, a Democrat from Bridgeport, says, “They commit crimes in between; there’s another arrest, or two arrests, or three arrests.”
Police have to seek a detention order, but judges don’t have access to the information after hours. Lawmakers are considering lifting the six-hour rule, adding a 24/7 probation official. A new law requires data on detention orders.
State Representative Craig Fishbein, a Republican from Cheshire, says this has been an issue all session and that’s why lawmakers passed a law that begins October 1, 2021.
“The question is, are they being applied for and are they [detention orders] being denied or are they being granted,” said Fishbein.
One Hartford mom who chose not to go on camera tells News 8 her son is held more accountable in detention. In there, he has to earn credits to use the phone. Her tough love wasn’t enough and he committed more crimes.
At a news conference Thursday, Governor Ned Lamont was asked about what he believes on the issue: “That first or second offense should not be incarceration but there should be consequences.”
The governor also says leaders are also seeking better supervision at group homes.
The goal: intervention to prevent further arrests. Lawmakers are expected to meet on the Juvenile Justice Reform issue again next week.