Judge Releases Detailed Memorandum In Jane Doe/DCF Case

Last Friday I posted about the obstacles that the confidentiality of juvenile court proceedings and DCF records have posed to an informed public debate about DCF’s supervision of Jane Doe.   Although prior news reports noted an April 8, 2014 order of the Superior Court judge who granted DCF’s request to transfer Jane Doe to the York correctional facility in Niantic, the judge subsequently articulated his reasoning in greater detail in a 22-page memorandum released on May 6, 2014. (I have posted a copy that redacts the references to Jane Doe’s first name.)  An appeal from his initial decision was filed in the Appellate Court on April 16, 2014.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has reported on that memorandum yet.  [See Update at end of this post.]  If you are truly interested in Jane Doe’s case, PLEASE READ IT.  And be prepared to reevaluate many factual assumptions you have had about the case. Here is a selection from the beginning of the decision:

The respondent . . . is a transgender female juvenile, over the age of sixteen, who has a history of violence.  She has consistently asserted that her gender identity is female, although she was born male.  The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has moved, pursuant to General Statutes section 17a-12, to transfer the respondent to the Manson Youth Institution, an institution for young male offenders tried as adults run by the Department of Correction (DOC).  The court held evidentiary hearings on this motion and makes the following findings of fact by a fair preponderance of the evidence.

The respondent has an extensive history of involvement with DCF.  Starting when she was nine [the respondent] was placed at Boys and Girls Village then transferred to Yale New Haven Hospital, then back to Boys and Girls Village.  She was subsequently placed at Riverview Hospital, Connecticut Children’s Place, Bridgeport Detention, and most recently at the Meadowridge Academy in Swansea, Massachusetts, then finally transferred to the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS).  During this lengthy history, she has exhibited a history of assaultive behavior while in placement facilities.  The director of CJTS testified that there were eleven occasions in which police were called to either a facility or a program regarding an incident with the respondent.  In these incidents the police interviewed staff, filed a complaint against the respondent, and subsequently he went to court.  He stated these incidents occurred at ages nine, ten, eleven, twelve, fourteen, and sixteen.  A supervisor from the juvenile detention center in Bridgeport stated that the respondent has exhibited assaultive behaviors towards staff members, other juveniles, peers, and females, as well as threatening behaviors towards staff members.  The supervisor also stated that her behavior was more severe than other residents.

The CJTS director noted specific behaviors that made the respondent especially dangerous and difficult to secure: an inability to de-escalate, targeting of female staff, and smearing of feces.  He stated that the incidents became steadily more aggressive and intense as the respondent increased in size and strength.  Finally, he stated that he had not seen the same level of behavior in any other juveniles at the training school.  [He] stated that CJTS staff are often assaulted, but that this is in the course of an intervention, when they are trying to break up a fight between residents.  The respondent, in contrast, specifically targets staff members.

On November 21, 2013, the respondent pleaded guilty to assault on an officer and was committed delinquent to DCF for a period not to exceed eighteen months.  She was then placed at the Meadowridge Academy, a therapeutic boarding school that provides specialized trauma-informed treatment services, in the girls dormitory.  During her two month placement at Meadowridge, she committed multiple assaults, first pulling the hair and spitting on one staff member, kicking another, and attacking another student, pulling her hair and scratching and punching her.  Then, on January 28, 2014, the respondent attacked a member of the Meadowridge staff and was discharged from Meadowridge and placed at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School on January 31, 2014.

The Meadowridge staff member, a resident counselor, whom the respondent assaulted on January 28, 2014, testified at length about her relationship with the respondent.  They had a close relationship prior to the incident, going on outings together and talking regularly.  They had a brief falling out when the staff member had to search the respondent’s room, but their relationship approved again prior to the assault.  The assault occurred after the respondent was agitated and the assaulted staff member and another staff member were trying to calm her down.  The respondent made threats that she would punch or cut the two staff members.  The other staff member grabbed the respondent.  She pull an arm free, which the assaulted staff member tried to hold down.  The respondent then ripped at her hair and bit her, leaving puncture wounds.  All three fell to the ground, after which the respondent, wearing army boots, kicked the assaulted staff member in the head, arm face, and ear.  The assaulted staff member believes she was kicked six times.  She estimated that the respondent weighed approximately 180 pounds and stood five feet eight inches, compared to her own 134 pounds and five feet five inches.

And from the end of the opinion:

The court finds that the respondent is too dangerous to be housed at either of the facilities operated by DCF.  In addition, it is clear that being housed in solitude or near solitude, as the respondent is currently, is not in the respondent’s best interest.  As stated above, the court does not credit the respondent’s suggestion that the DCF commissioner previously identified her as an appropriate candidate for the girl’s facility.  Rather, as DCF contends, the commissioner discussed various actions committed by the defendant as demonstrating that there are dangerous juvenile girls within the system.  The evidence submitted indicates that housing the respondent at the DCF girl’s facility would be just as difficult as housing her at the training school.  There is ample evidence that she is dangerous around female staff and other female juvenile residents.

All of the evidence demonstrates that the resopndent should be transferred to the custody of DOC. . . .

UPDATE: May 20, 2014 at 4:47 pm

CNN published an article on May 15 that, while not expressly referencing the May 6, 2014 decision, quotes some statements that appear in that decision, but not the earlier, April 8, 2014 order.  Other than the CNN article, however, I am not aware of any coverage of the May 6 decision.  If any readers are aware of other stories discussing the most recent decision, please let me know.



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