There is a 16-year-old girl in an adult prison in Connecticut with no charges against her and she was being held in solitary confinement without the prospect of release in the near future. She has been in prison for 6 weeks.  Until last week, Jane Doe was in solitary confinement in the mental health unit. According to a letter written by her, she cried in bed every night. She heard adult inmates crying, screaming, and banging on the walls. Guards observed her every day and every night, when showering and going to the bathroom. When other inmates could see her she was bullied.

“I feel forgotten and thrown away,” she wrote to the governor of Connecticut from her solitary cell, “As you probably know, these feelings are not new for me. This is the way my life has been going since I was a little kid.”

The state became involved in Jane Doe’s life when she was just five because her father was incarcerated and her mother was suffering from drug addiction. She was born a boy and after being placed in the care of her extended family, she was caught playing with dolls. One relative beat her head off the wall for it. Another relative molested her when she was 8, she was also assaulted by other family members as she grew older.  She would dress up as a girl only in secret. At the age of 11, a relative caught her wearing a dress and makeup. They slapped her and yelled, “You are a boy! What the f*** is wrong with you?”  At 12, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families became her legal guardian. She moved around in group homes where she was molested by staffers and at 15, she became a sex worker, “I wanted to be a little kid again in my mother’s arms and all I wanted was someone to tell me they loved me, that everything would be alright, and that I will never have to live the way I was again.”

On January 28, while living at a juvenile facility in Massachusetts, where she was serving a sentence for assault, she allegedly attacked a staff member, biting her, pulling her hair, and kicking her. The director of the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, a correctional facility for boys, later testified in court that, since Doe was nine, police have been called 11 times while she was in state facilities. He said she sometimes smeared feces on herself. Another supervisor claimed Doe regularly “exhibited assaultive behaviors.”

Aaron Romano, Doe’s attorney, said that the most recent incident was sparked because a male staffer put her in a bear hug restraint, “This is a girl who has been sexually abused. She is inclined to interpret actions with that view.”

The female staffer Doe allegedly attacked did not press charges and the male staffer has since been dismissed from his job. DCF cited an obscure statute that allows juveniles to be moved to adult prison for their “best interest”. Initially, the state sought to place her in a men’s prison, but her lawyers objected, so she was sent to a women’s prison. Under federal law, juveniles cannot be detained in general population with adults, so she was placed in solitary confinement.

In February, DCF Commissioner Joette Katz cited Jane Doe’s case (falsely stating that she broke a staff member’s jaw) in order to ask for more funds for a new girls’ prison. She told the Connecticut Legislature that Jane Doe’s case showed why high-security prisons are necessary for juveniles. The Legislature did allot $2.6 million and the facility is now open, but officials are now saying that Doe is too dangerous even for that new high-security juvenile facility.

Abby Anderson, executive director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, says Doe’s incarceration is the result of a broken system of juvenile care. “We don’t have a good sense of where our system has its strengths and weaknesses,” she says.

Government data shows that 52% of girls in custody or on parole have trauma disorders and 89% had more than one diagnosed psychological disorder. Anderson says that the state doesn’t have adequate mental-health care and doesn’t do enough to detect and prevent sexual abuse, “We need to make sure this system is shored up…If you have a 16-year-old, you need to make her feel safe and put her in a place where she can trust people.”

In a press release, DCF said, “There is no identified foster home that can reasonably be expected to safely care for this youth,” beyond that they declined to comment.

Ramano said that people licensed to take foster children have contacted him offering to take Doe, but DCF has refused all offers.

One month into her confinement, Doe wrote a letter to Governor Dannel Malloy, “Is it OK for them to do this? If I was in charge I wouldn’t let this happen. If you’re Governor then you are in charge…Don’t forget about me. I can’t take another month…”

A few days later, she was transferred out of the mental-health unit to another building with access to private recreational space and education services, but she still has no prospect of release and no contact with others.

RELATED:  Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance


Join the Discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s