March 26, 2007
By Ken Krayeske • Hartford • 10:30 AM EST
YRM documentarians took a tour of the $57 million prison camp boondoggle known as the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown and made a film.
The film features security camera footage of February 2004 beatings CJTS guards administered to young prisoners into solitary holding cells (posted above). Child advocate Jeanne Milstein obtained the footage through pre-trial discovery in a lawsuit to hold DCF accountable for living conditions.
I am not particularly concerned about what happened before the footage, what the kids did to deserve it or whatever. That argument is a fallacy, inferring that the youth deserve what they got.
Sorry, to me, state sanctioned violence against children is unacceptable. I don’t care what happened prior. Rehabilitating young people with troubled pasts should never entail state employees extracting eye for and eye and tooth for a tooth punishment.
Such abusive conduct of adults acting within the authority of the state must be condemned, and the building that allows it comes from the legacy of the Rowland/Rell administation. That the Rowland/Rell administration didn't change DCF Commissioners the minute this footage became public is testament to their poor leadership on the issue.
My ire with CJTS has seethed for years. The seed of fire was planted back in 2002 when I was running Echoes from the Streets youth newspaper in Hartford, and through Our Piece of the Pie, Echoes landed a contract to teach journalism to girls in the Briggs Cottages at the old Long Lane.
Shortly after we started, the boys moved to CJTS and the state moved the girls into the high-security facility vacated by the boys. So without a change in crimes committed, the girls were suddenly locked in a place a little more intensive, a little more oppressive because it worked better for DCF.
The rooms had toilets with sinks, and girls tried to make them homey. The solitary confinement room featured pained grafitti, where someone had scrawled, etched into painted cinder block walls “I hate myself and I want to die.” Maybe it was just the cold showers at Long Lane they were reacting to.
But I doubted that any of it was therapeutic for the girls, who DCF had been under a court order to treat better. The rage from meeting and teaching 13-year-old girls who live in that situation really never leaves you. I pass through the metal detectors in my mind all the time.
So after watching the documentary, in a moment of outraged determination and precision, I posted this sentence on CTLocalPolitics: "Whose going to protest the inaugural ball Jan. 3 with me? No need to make nice after watching this documentary about CJTS," and I linked to the movie.
That got me on a list, and well, the story goes on. Back in February, I had the opportunity to visit CJTS with Quinnipiac University School of Law students. Here is that report from inside the prison.