REPORT ON BILLS FAVORABLY REPORTED BY COMMITTEE

COMMITTEE:

Select Committee on Children

File No.:

Bill No.:

HB-5366

PH Date:

2/24/2004

Action/Date:

Joint Favorable Change of Reference

03/04/2004

Reference Change:

Human Services Committee

TITLE OF BILL:

AN ACT CONCERNING PROGRAMS AND SERVICES FOR FEMALE JUVENILE STATUS OFFENDERS AND DELINQUENTS.

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Select Committee on Children

Representative Hamm, 34th District

 

REASONS FOR BILL:

Representative Hamm proposed this legislation to establish a plan for the development of a continuum of community-based services for female juvenile status offenders and delinquents. These services shall be designed to prevent the incarceration of such status offenders and delinquents.

(The Committee in JFS language LCO No. 2242 changed the title of the bill at the request of Representative Hamm to An Act Establishing A Plan Of Community-Based Services For Adolescent Females Involved In The Juvenile Court System.)

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

DARLENE DUNBAR/Commissioner, Department of Children and Families (DCF) testified that the Department has consistently opposed the incarceration of youth solely because of status offenses. There appears to be no resources to be made available for the planning requirement in this bill. The bill also does not include the Court Support Services Division of the Judicial Branch, an important participant in providing services to female status offenders.

LESLIE J. BRETT/Executive Director, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women testified that in a January 30, 2004 letter to DCF Commissioner Dunbar, the state's Child Advocate Jeanne Milstein and Attorney General Blumenthal noted that girls were "languishing" in a variety of inappropriate settings including out-of-state facilities. In some extreme cases, girls were driven around over night because the people responsible for their care were not aware of any appropriate, available facility for them.

The Commission supports the goal of the bill to establish a plan for the development of a continuum of community-based services for female juvenile status offenders but this bill does not go far enough, fast enough. We urge you to include the Court Support Services Division in the planning process, to focus on gender-appropriate treatment and services for all girls in the system, and to move the implementation date up as much as possible.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

LESLIE J. BRETT/Executive Director, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women

See above.

NORA DUNCAN/Program Services Coordinator, Connecticut Association of Nonprofits (CAN) stated that providers face increasingly challenging cases in the female juvenile justice system, with more severe behavioral health, family, educational and violence problems. A comprehensive plan is needed and the input of several different state agencies is necessary. Also necessary is the experience of the providers already working at the community level and CAN appreciates their inclusion in the bill.

CHARISA SMITH and MICHELLE GARCIA/Advocates for Connecticut's Children and Youth testified that starting with a plan to develop a continuum of services to prevent incarceration of female status offenders and delinquents makes sense because:

1. The arrest rate for girls has doubled to reach almost one third of juvenile justice arrests nationally. The top three offenses for which females are arrested are non-violent with a majority of those arrested being status offenders.

2. Female detainees are more emotionally vulnerable and have specific needs. Over two-thirds of female court-involved youth are fleeing sexual or other kinds of abuse, and girls in the juvenile justice system are twice as likely as their male counterparts to be fleeing abuse.

3. Of girls interviewed for a national study, 81% had a history of trauma with at least one prior commitment to a psychiatric hospital, most likely for suicide attempts.

4. The majority of girls in residential placement and the juvenile justice system report experiencing some type of child abuse. Compared to female offenders who were not maltreated, female offenders who were maltreated were 73% more likely than males to be arrested for violent crime.

5. Substance abuse is prevalent among juvenile justice detainees. Girls tend to abuse substances for different reasons such as stress relief, weight loss and mood improvement then do boys

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

DARLENE DUNBAR/Commissioner, Department of Children and Families

See above.

 

Alyx Shore

Rod O'Connor

O3/05/2004

     
 

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