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Transgender Teen Outlines Years of Abuse While in DCF Custody

Brian Turner
Creative Commons

A temporary restraining order has been filed in federal court on behalf of a transgender juvenile being detained at Connecticut's women's prison. It includes an affidavit from the 16-year-old alleging multiple accounts of physical and sexual abuse while she was in DCF custody.

Aaron Romano, assigned counsel for Jane Doe, requested the preliminary injunction because he said the juvenile's civil rights were violated when a judge last week approved transferring the teen from DCF to the Department of Correction. 

Romano said the state law that DCF used to justify the transfer conflicts with two federal statutes that prohibit the detention of a child at a prison. They are the Juvenile Justice Delinquent Prevention Act and the Prison Rape Elimination Act. He said his client has not been charged or convicted of an adult crime and is being kept in isolation at York Correctional Institution in Niantic. And he said the prison is not providing services that she needs as a transgender youth. 

Jane Doe filed an affidavit as part of the injunction. Between the ages of eight and 16, she recounted repeated incidents of physical and sexual abuse from people who were supposed to be taking care of her while in DCF custody. The abuse came from the hands of relatives and staff at residential facilities.

According to Jane Doe, the abuse included a time when she was 12 and was sexually abused by a staff member in a Massachusetts facility. She also recounted that when she was 13, a staff member at the Connecticut Children's Place sexually abused her and another transgender female. Romano said, "DCF is choosing, rather to treat and help this child, they have thrown her into jail." 

In the affidavit,  Jane Doe said, "Everyone is always looking at me like I'm an alien, because I want to be the female that I am." She also said, "I really do want help, but I just have a hard time seeing a better future for myself."

Romano said his client's case is complicated but that it's no excuse for DCF to shift responsibility to the state prison system. "I think it's abhorrent of them to shirk responsibility by stating my client has acted out aggressively toward other people." Romano said, "This affidavit makes it clear why she would act out that way. " 

Now that the injunction has been filed, the court will schedule a preliminary hearing. The teen's attorney said he hoped all parties involved can come up with a "constitutional setting for her confinement."

There's plenty of criticism of the decision to house the teen atYork Correctional Institution, because she has not been charged or convicted of an adult crime. Last week, a judge approved a request from DCF to transfer custody of the teen to the Department of Correction. The department referred to a rarely-used state law that allows the transfer if the juvenile in DCF care is a danger to him or herself and to staff and cannot be held safely at any DCF facility.

The teen's supporters say she is not dangerous and DCF is treating her this way because she is transgender. They also say DCF takes care of many minors who are assaultive but it does not seek to transfer them to the prison system. They point to a new locked unit for girls in Middletown as a suitable place for Jane Doe.

In a statement on Friday, DCF said, "the youth is uniquely dangerous" because she has exhibited such a long established pattern of assaults. DCF said the "pattern of assaults demonstrated by this youth warrants the use of this transfer process (to Department of Correction)." DCF said the teen has also been placed in multiple rehabilitative settings for females. 

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

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