(Updated 1:02 p.m.) A memorandum from Superior Court Judge Burton Kaplan details “ample evidence” of violence to support the transfer of the transgender youth known as “Jane Doe” into the custody of the Correction Department.
Kaplan filed the 22-page memorandum on May 6. It provides some details on the case that have not been publicly available because Department of Children and Families and juvenile court records are typically sealed.
But the case of “Jane Doe” captured public attention after the 16-year-old transgender female was transferred from DCF custody into an adult prison. Burton ordered the transfer at DCF’s request.
The department’s decision to employ a rarely-used law to put the teen in Correction Department custody has been criticized by child advocates, the Connecticut ACLU, newspaper editorials, and LGBT advocates. Many point out that “Jane Doe” is a minor imprisoned at an adult prison in Niantic despite not having been charged with any crime.
Meanwhile, “Jane Doe” has written to both DCF Commissioner Joette Katz, a former state Supreme Court justice, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a former prosecutor, asking to be removed from the adult prison facility.
In the memo, the judge agrees that holding the teen in solitary confinement is not in her best interest. But Kaplan writes that “Jane Doe” is simply too dangerous to be housed in DCF’s facilities as there is “ample evidence” that she poses a threat to female staff members and other girls in the department’s system.
The judge cited testimony from the director of the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS), one of seven facilities in which “Jane Doe” was housed since she was 9 years old. According to the memo, police responded to facilities 11 times for incidents involving “Jane Doe.”
“The CJTS director noted specific behaviors that made the respondent [Jane Doe] especially dangerous and difficult to secure: an inability to de-escalate, targeting of female staff and smearing feces,” the memo said. “He stated that the incidents became steadily more aggressive and intense as the respondent increased in size and strength.”
The teen, who has “consistently asserted that her gender identity is female, although she was born male,” was 5-feet, 8-inches and weighed approximately 180 pounds when, according to the memo, she assaulted a female staff member who weighed 135 pounds. The incident occurred after two staff members tried to restrain her.
“She pulled 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 memo said. “The assaulted staff member believes she was kicked six times.”
Attorney Daniel Klau posted the judge’s memorandum Monday on his blog “Appealingly Brief.” In a phone interview, Klau said he hasn’t taken a position on the case but he noted that many people have taken “very strong positions without understanding the factual background” of the case.
“This decision should cause people to stop and re-evaluate their assumptions about whether placing ‘Jane Doe’ in Niantic in the the first instance was appropriate,” he said.
Klau said the document “sheds an awful lot of light on facts people had just speculated about” with regard to why the teen was placed in an adult prison in the first place, but said concerns about her long-term confinement there are still appropriate and valid.
Andrew Doba, a spokesman for the governor, has said Malloy wants the teen moved to a different facility as soon as possible.
“Commissioner Katz has been developing a plan that will assure both Jane Doe’s safety and the safety of others. It’s our hope that Jane Doe’s transition to a more appropriate setting can be accomplished in a matter of days or weeks, not months, and that she benefits from the treatment and opportunities available to her,” Doba said.
Bloomfield attorney Aaron Romano is representing Jane Doe in a federal lawsuit against the Correction Department seeking her release. More than a week ago, Romano rallied with advocates outside DCF’s Hartford offices demanding Doe’s release.
He told the New Haven Register that “state law used to transfer the girl is illegal because it violates two federal laws: the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act and the Prison Rape Elimination Act.”
Advocates for Jane Doe’s transfer from Niantic say DCF has dozens of minors in its custody with similar histories of violence, and the agency has managed to house them without using an adult prison.
Sandra Staub, legal director of the ACLU, said the court memo doesn’t begin to detail Jane Doe’s ordeal and the history of violence against her.
“This document is the court’s rationale for its decision, a decision that is being appealed because there is a great deal more to consider about Jane Doe and the history of violence by her and against her,” Staub said Wednesday. “The fact remains that a 16-year-old who is not even charged with a crime has spent 43 days isolated in an adult prison, even though the state has been promising to find a more appropriate place for her. It’s past time to find that place.”