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Lamont Considers Options To House Migrant Children In Connecticut

Connecticut Juvenile Training School
Connecticut Department of Children and Families
Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown was closed by the state in 2018.


Vice President Kamala Harris asked Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont if the state can help house some of the 19,000 migrant children that crossed the southern border last month. Now, Lamont is exploring options, including a juvenile prison the state closedthree years ago. Some advocates say the facility would have to change drastically to meet the need. 

A whistleblower at Connecticut Juvenile Training School reported staff illegally restrained and locked children ages 12 to 19 years old in isolation rooms. Sarah Eagan headed the state’s investigation in 2015 as the state’s child advocate. 


“Our report really raised concerns both about the children’s treatment and the efficacy of that model or efficacy of incarceration,” Eagan said.


Then-Governor Dannel Malloy lobbied to close CJTS. He said he never imagined it would be used again to hold juveniles.


Eagan agrees today: “As is, as a juvenile correctional facility, that is not where we would want to place any children.”


She said migrant children would need specific social and culturally appropriate support, and they shouldn’t be sleeping inwhat amount to old cells at CJTS.


“The problem with CJTS was always that there are aspects of the facility that are fine. They have a nice school, a nice gymnasium,” Eagan said. “The problem at CJTS was always the pod where kids resided, that it looks like a prison. So, can that be undone?”


Vannessa Dorantes, Commissioner of the state’s child welfare agency called Department of Children and Families, visited the facility to see how that prison floor plan could be undone.


“A building doesn’t care for kids, people do,” Dorantes told WFSB Newsshe’s not sure spreading children around the state would offer the kind of wrap-around care migrant kids would need. She said that need at the border shelters is great. 


“There’s still lots of kids there with foil blankets. And that’s not what we think is the best place, the best way,” Dorantes said. “We have to help them kind of alleviate some of that pressure.”


John Lugo leads the immigrant rights group, Unidad Latina En Acción, in New Haven. Lugo said he’s glad Connecticut is trying to help the children in shelters at the southern border, but “they should be released as soon as possible.”


Lugo says migrant children deserve to be matched up with family members or friends quickly. He said they can be in a loving home environment, instead of a repurposed juvenile facility.

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.