In an editorial board meeting with WNPR earlier this week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the Connecticut Juvenile Training School will be closed by 2018.
That statement came just one day after lawmakers removed language to close the facility from a deficit mitigation plan.
Malloy told WNPR that the facility run by the Department of Children and Families in Middletown should be closed by July 1, 2018.
State Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, said that Malloy assured lawmakers privately on Tuesday that the department was moving toward closing the facility.
House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said language was taken out of the deficit mitigation plan because there was no guarantee from the administration that the 335 employees at the facility wouldn’t be laid off.
Aresimowicz said Tuesday that there’s an acknowledgment the Malloy administration is moving toward closing the secure Department of Children and Families facility for boys, but lawmakers need more time to debate exactly how that should be done.
The employees at the facility are considered “hazardous duty,” which means they are fully vested in the state pension system after 20 years of employment. Many of the employees, according to Aresimowicz, are three-quarters of the way to retirement and finding them another “hazardous duty” job in state government isn’t easy. Some could be absorbed into the Department of Corrections, but many might have to find a job outside of state government.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, made closing the facility one of the sticking points in budget negotiations, and he wondered why Democratic lawmakers were putting state employees over the needs of children.
This summer there were two reports that highlighted problems at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School and the Pueblo Girls Unit, which reopened in March 2014.
Among Eagan’s findings were 532 cases of physical restraint and 134 cases of mechanical restraint over a 12-month period. There were 225 incidents of seclusion lasting four hours or longer, and 100 lasting eight hours or longer — and those incidents included children who were in mental health crisis or threatening to hurt themselves. Between June 2014 and February 2015, there were at least two dozen cases of children in the facilities trying to kill or hurt themselves.
Eagan released the videos of some of those incidents in September.
On Thursday, Eagan applauded Malloy’s decision to set a date to close the facility, which costs about $53 million a year to operate.
The facility was built during former Gov. John G. Rowland’s administration and opened in 2001.
By 2002, the Office of the Child Advocate and then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal had issued a report that found an inappropriate response to suicidality, overuse of restraint and seclusion, insufficient training of staff, no internal quality assurance procedures, and no independent oversight.
Those findings from the 2002 report, according to Lara Herscovitch, deputy director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, are exactly the same conditions recently found by Eagan and Kinscherff.
The Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, which called for the closure of CJTS and the Pueblo Unit earlier this year, said Thursday that the state should start planning in earnest for alternatives to help the children housed at the facilities succeed.