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Attorneys Go to Federal Court in Case of Transgender Teen at York

Chris Reed/iStock

Attorneys for a transgender teen recently placed at Connecticut's women's prison said the Department of Correction is expected to announce on Friday whether she will remain there, or be sent to a male facility. 

Meanwhile, an attorney for the 16-year-old was in federal court Thursday morning.

"We can't have a transgender female placed in a male facility. I think we all understand the kind of risk this would be to this child."
Aaron Romano

Aaron Romano has been appointed by the chief public defender's office to represent the juvenile in post conviction matters. Romano explained the federal injunction they were seeking. "We filed a temporary restraining order, or injunction," he said, "to prevent Jane Doe from being moved from a female facility to a male facility. Or, if she remains at a female facility, [it would] prevent her from being placed in isolation or segregation." 

Romano said the judge dismissed the injunction while awaiting the DOC decision on whether the 16-year-old will stay at York, or will be placed at Manson Youth Institution in Cheshire for male offenders. 

Historically, the DOC places transgender adult inmates in facilities based on their biological sex, and not their gender identity. This is the first time the state prison system has had to detain a transgender juvenile in an adult correctional facility. 

Romano said that if Corrections tries to move the juvenile to Manson, they will re-submit the injunction to block the transfer. "I think that everyone who understands this case," he said, "is concerned about the well-being of Jane Doe. We can't have a transgender female placed in a male facility. I think we all understand the kind of risk this would be to this child."

On Tuesday, a juvenile court judge granted a request by the Department of Children and Families to transfer custody of the teen to the Department of Correction. DCF cited a state law that allows it to do this if the juvenile is a danger to him or herself, and cannot be held safely at a DCF facility. 

The teen's attorneys refuted the allegation that she is dangerous, and they questioned why DCF did not place her in the new locked unit for girls in Middletown. They pointed to testimony by DCF Commissioner Joette Katz in February before the legislative Appropriations Committee. Katz cited Jane Doe as an example of the type of teen that can benefit from the girls' unit in the Solnit Center at the former Riverview Hospital in Middletown. 

The state Child Advocate stressed that the court order on Tuesday effectively placed a 16-year-old in an adult prison, despite the fact she has not been convicted of an adult crime. 

Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.

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