State Advocacy Groups and Lawmakers Discuss Solutions for Juvenile Justice Issues
STATE ADVOCACY GROUPS AND LAWMAKERS DISCUSS SOLUTIONS TO JUVENILE JUSTICE ISSUES
(HARTFORD, CT) – On Friday, August 6, 2021, the Connecticut Justice Alliance (CTJA), Tow Youth Justice Institute (TYJI) at the University of New Haven, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT), along with Connecticut community advocates and lawmakers, held a press conference today on the North Steps of the State Capitol to discuss data-driven solutions to car thefts and youth crime that don’t center on incarcerating teens but instead offer an actual plan of action to provide resources to support their specific needs.
The group said, that despite recent media reports to the contrary, there has been NO significant increase in overall juvenile crime in recent years, INCLUDING motor vehicle theft. They said it is important to understand the true scope of the problem before identifying potential solutions. There has been a sharp decline since 1991 in car thefts, break-ins and vandalism committed by youth in Connecticut. While there was a slight uptick in 2020, the 2020 numbers are consistent with the prior three years and are, on average, still at a historically low rate. In addition, in the first six months of 2021, motor vehicle thefts decreased compared with January through June of 2020.
"We share today what many are not informed enough about to understand - facts, data & truth. The tools are there, we just need to use them and stop pretending there's no fix for the problem," said State Representative Anthony Nolan (D-New Haven).
Funneling more teens into the system without an actual plan of action to support their specific needs is irresponsible, organizers said, adding that implementing harmful blanketed policies designed to "crack down" on youth offenders does not address the root causes of this issue.
"The issue of juvenile car thefts demands our attention. We should be paying attention to whether we are asking the right questions about the root causes so we can develop and implement the right answers. Anything less is political and dangerous," stated State Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven).
Reports that "our hands are tied," and "nothing can be done" to hold children accountable in the juvenile court are inaccurate, according to speakers at today’s news conference. Current law, they said, allows the
court to incarcerate youth in a juvenile detention center at the time of arrest (or later) if the child poses a risk to public safety and if there’s a need to hold the child for failure to respond to court process. Also, children (age 15 and older) charged with the most serious offenses are automatically transferred to the adult court.
State Representative Toni Walker (D-New Haven), co-chair of the Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee, states, "As an educator and legislator I have seen firsthand how just policies, practices, and funding can make a difference in the lives of all young people in Connecticut. We all must dispel falsehoods, and all begin speaking the truth about what is available under the law for local authorities."
Connecticut’s solutions and resource allocation should be focused on the small number of children who have received juvenile court services and continue to engage in risky behavior, speakers said. "Reforms in Juvenile Justice in Connecticut have been highly successful, with reductions in crime and arrest, but with COVID, society and the JJ system were thrown into turmoil. Now is not the time to change our direction, now is the time to rebuild the systems that have proven effective," stated Hector Glynn, chief operating officer, The Village for Families & Children and co-chair of the Racial and Ethnic Disparities Workgroup of the Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee.