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WSHU's ongoing coverage of issues surrounding Connecticut's Department of Children and Families.

Conn. Lawmakers Hold Hearing For CJTS, Pueblo Unit Questions

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Craig LeMoult
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Connecticut lawmakers called a hearing Friday to ask the Department of Children and Families how the state’s two secure juvenile detention facilities, the Connecticut Juvenile Training School for Boys (CJTS) and the Pueblo Unit for girls, are changing. Over the past 10 years, several state reports have found that children at the facilities have experienced illegal restraint and isolation.

At a juvenile justice committee hearing, State Rep. Toni Walker (D-New Haven) said the committee has been talking about improving the facilities for a decade. She said she wants to take action before the end of this year.

"When we do these kinds of conversations over and over again we serve nobody’s purpose," she said. "We will, over the next three or four months, have very concentrated meetings that are going to address this problem."

Walker says the committee needs to decide how to change the culture of the CJTS and Pueblo unit.

"I think the real question is does Connecticut need CJTS? " Walker said.

Walker asked Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz whether CJTS should exist. Katz oversees both CJTS and Pueblo unit.

"My goal is to have as few kids as possible for as short a time as possible, but if you don’t have[CJTS], you put incredible pressure on the rest of the system," Katz said.

One report says kids in the facility have to be watched closely and need special therapy to help them deal with their issues. And other state facilities can’t do that.

Katz says her goal is to make CJTS a therapeutic facility. She suggested one way to change that culture would be to remodel the cells children live in, so the cells look more like dorms.

DCF presented an action plan to reduce the use of illegal restraint and seclusion on children at the facilities during the meeting.

Walker said DCF’s presentation at the meeting showed that the department is willing to participate in the reform process.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.
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