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Juvenile Justice Reform in Connecticut: How Collaboration and Commitment Have Improved Public Safety and Outcomes for Youth

NCJ Number
Richard Mendel
Date Published
February 2013
56 pages
This report describes, analyzes, and draws lessons from Connecticut's success in juvenile justice reform, so other States seeking similar reform can benefit from Connecticut's initiatives.
In order to appreciate how far Connecticut has come in its juvenile justice reform, the report notes that in 1992 it was one of only three States whose justice system treated all 16- and 17 year-olds as adults, trying them in criminal court, maintaining open records, and sentencing many to adult prisons without education or rehabilitative services tailored to adolescents. Connecticut routinely incarcerated hundreds of youth, with many of them never convicted or even accused of serious crimes. Over the decade that followed, a movement for comprehensive reform gained momentum. By 2012, Connecticut was committed to investing in alternatives to detention and incarceration for juveniles, improved conditions of confinement, the use of research on what is most effective in juvenile corrections, and the implementation of treatment strategies proven effective in well-designed evaluations. In other reform achievements, Connecticut diverts status offenders from the court system and locked detention centers, keeps youth out of the adult justice system, addresses racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, and discourages arrests at school for minor misconduct. These reform efforts have resulted in cost savings and improved public safety through more effective treatment regimens. Based on Connecticut's achievements, five key elements of juvenile justice reform are outlined. First, create a state-wide alliance of advocates for reform. Second, commit to evidence-based and outcome-focused practices. Third, based on a consensus among reform advocates, develop a juvenile justice strategic plan. Fourth, develop a base of support that includes private foundations with a history of commitment and achievement in juvenile justice reform. Fifth, stimulate and accelerate reform through litigation that targets for reform adverse existing conditions. Extensive figures and 166 notes