OLR Bill Analysis
sHB 7050 (as amended by House "A")*
AN ACT CONCERNING THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM.
This bill makes various changes affecting the juvenile justice system.
It changes when cases may or must be transferred from juvenile court to adult criminal court, including:
1. eliminating automatic transfers for children aged 14 through 17 charged with certain class B felonies and
2. raising the minimum age, from 14 to 15, for the (a) automatic transfer for other class B felonies or more serious crimes and (b) discretionary transfer for felonies not subject to automatic transfer.
The bill (1) creates a presumption that mechanical restraints (such as shackles) will be removed from a juvenile during juvenile court proceedings before a determination of delinquency, (2) specifies when such restraints may be allowed, and (3) requires the Judicial Branch to keep related statistical information.
It also expands the Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee's (JJPOC) membership and responsibilities. For example, it requires the committee to (1) implement a strategic plan and report on the plan by January 1, 2016 and (2) annually report on certain matters beyond the current January 1, 2017 end date for its responsibilities.
*House Amendment “A” (1) removes provisions from the underlying bill that would require the presence of a parent or guardian for a confession or other statement by a 16- or 17-year-old to be admissible and (2) eliminates the automatic transfer to adult court for certain class B felonies, rather than all class B felonies as in the underlying bill.
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015
§ 1 — TRANSFER TO ADULT CRIMINAL COURT
Current law requires the juvenile court to automatically transfer a child aged 14 through 17 to adult criminal court if he or she is charged with a capital felony committed prior to April 25, 2012, a class A or B felony (see BACKGROUND), or arson murder. For 14- to 17-year-olds charged with other felonies, the prosecutor can request a transfer to adult court, and the court can order the transfer in certain circumstances, described below.
For all felonies, the bill eliminates the transfer of 14-year-olds to adult court.
It also eliminates automatic transfer for the following class B felonies:
1. first-degree manslaughter;
2. first-degree assault of a Department of Correction employee;
3. second-degree sexual assault with a victim under age 16;
4. second-degree kidnapping;
5. one form of first-degree burglary (i.e., the person enters or remains unlawfully in a building with intent to commit a crime in the building and in the course of committing the offense, intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly inflicts or attempts to inflict bodily injury on anyone);
6. second-degree arson;
7. first-degree larceny;
8. first-degree identify theft;
9. first-degree robbery, other than when the person is armed with a deadly weapon;
10. importing child pornography;
11. first-degree possessing child pornography;
12. first-degree computer crime; and
13. computer crime in furtherance of terrorist purposes.
The bill allows the prosecutor to request a transfer to adult court for a 15- to 17-year-old charged with one of these crimes, under the same procedures as in existing law for felonies not subject to automatic transfer.
Under these procedures, if the prosecutor requests a transfer, the court can order the transfer only if it determines after a hearing that (1) there is probable cause to believe that the child committed the alleged offense and (2) the best interests of both the child and public are not served by keeping the case in juvenile court. The court must consider (1) the child's prior criminal or juvenile offenses and their seriousness, (2) any evidence that the child has intellectual disability or mental illness, and (3) the availability of juvenile court services that can serve the child's needs. The motion to transfer must be made, and the hearing held, within 30 days after the child's arraignment in juvenile court.
For these discretionary transfers, as for discretionary transfers under existing law, the adult criminal court can return the case to juvenile court any time before a jury verdict or guilty plea, upon a showing of good cause.
§ 3 — MECHANICAL RESTRAINTS IN JUVENILE COURT PROCEEDINGS
Under the bill, there is a presumption that all mechanical restraints will be removed from a detained juvenile appearing in juvenile court. The presumption applies before the juvenile appears in court and throughout his or her court appearances, until the final adjudication of the case.
The bill allows the in-court use of mechanical restraints for these juveniles only upon court order and under the written policy of the Judicial Branch (see BACKGROUND).
The bill requires the Judicial Branch to keep statistics on the use of mechanical restraints during juvenile proceedings. It requires the branch to provide these statistics to any member of the public upon request. Before doing so, the branch must redact any information that would identify a juvenile.
§ 4 — JJPOC
Legislation enacted last year established the JJPOC to evaluate and report on (1) juvenile justice system policies and (2) the extension of juvenile jurisdiction to 16- and 17-year-olds.
Under current law, the JJPOC has 35 members. The bill adds to the committee the:
1. labor, social services, and public health commissioners, or their designees and
2. chief of police of a municipality with a population over 100,000, appointed by the president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association.
Existing law requires the JJPOC to submit specific reports to the Appropriations, Children's, Human Services, and Judiciary committees and the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) secretary. The first report was due January 1, 2015; the next report is due July 1, 2015; and quarterly reports are due after that until January 1, 2017.
Strategic Plan. By law, among the required components of the first report were short-, medium-, and long-term goals for the JJPOC and state agencies with juvenile justice system responsibilities, developed after considering existing relevant reports related to the juvenile justice system and any related state strategic plan.
The bill requires the JJPOC to implement a strategic plan integrating these goals. As part of the plan's implementation, the JJPOC must collaborate with (1) municipal police departments and (2) any state agency with juvenile justice system responsibilities, including the Judicial Branch and the departments of Children and Families (DCF), Correction, Education (SDE), Labor, and Mental Health and Addiction Services.
By January 1, 2016, the committee must report the plan to the Appropriations, Children's, Human Services, and Judiciary committees and the OPM secretary. The report must (1) address progress toward the plan's full implementation and (2) include any recommendations on the implementation of these goals by municipal police departments or any involved state agency.
Recommendations to Improve Juvenile Justice System. The bill requires the JJPOC to assess the juvenile justice system and make any recommendations to improve it. The JJPOC must report on the assessment and recommendations to the recipients noted above, by July 1 of 2016, 2017, and 2018. The reports must address:
1. educational outcomes and mental health and substance abuse treatment programs and services for children and youths (i.e., aged 16 or 17) involved with the juvenile justice system, or at risk of this involvement;
2. disproportionate minority contact with children and youths involved with the juvenile justice system;
3. training on the system for state agencies and municipal police departments;
4. diverting at-risk children and youths from the system;
5. recidivism tracking and policies and procedures to reduce recidivism;
6. data sharing among public and private juvenile justice agencies and other child services agencies, including SDE, to evaluate the system's effectiveness and efficiency;
7. vocational educational opportunities for children and youths in the system, until they turn 21;
8. oversight of, and reduction in, the use of restraints for children and youths, and reduction in the use of seclusion and room confinement in juvenile justice facilities;
9. evidence-based positive behavioral support strategies and other evidence-based or research-informed strategies to reduce the reliance on restraints and seclusion; and
10. programs and facilities using restraints or seclusion for children or youths and any data on this use, including the rate and duration of use for children and youths with disabilities.
Reporting on Progress. Existing law requires the JJPOC to submit quarterly reports on the progress of its goals and measures, starting by July 1, 2015 until January 1, 2017. The bill extends this requirement to include annual reporting after that.
Consultation and Support. Current law requires the JJPOC, in meeting its requirements for the reports due in January and July 2015, to consult with one or more organizations that focus on relevant children and youth issues, such as the University of New Haven and any of its institutes. The bill requires this consultation for all of the JJPOC's responsibilities. It also specifically allows the committee to accept administrative support and technical and research assistance from these organizations.
By law, the JJPOC must also work in collaboration with any results first initiatives implemented by law, including those implemented by the Results First Policy Oversight Committee (CGS § 2-111).
Class A and B Felonies: Disposition in Juvenile vs. Criminal Court
When handled in criminal court, authorized prison terms are generally (1) up to 25 years for class A felonies and (2) up to 20 years for class B felonies. For some A or B felonies, there are (1) longer maximum terms (e.g., 60 years for murder) or (2) mandatory minimum terms.
If a child or youth is adjudicated delinquent in a juvenile court for violating a criminal statute, the court may order various sentences, such as an alternative incarceration program, probation, or commitment to DCF. DCF commitment may be for up to four years for a “serious juvenile offense” or up to 18 months for other offenses. Serious juvenile offenses include (1) murder with special circumstances (previously, capital felony); (2) arson murder, (3) all class A felonies; and (4) many class B felonies.
DCF may extend the commitment beyond these periods if it can prove to the court that doing so would be in the best interest of the child or the community. DCF commitments for delinquency end when the child reaches age 20 (CGS §§ 46b-140, 141).
Judicial Branch Policy on Use of Mechanical Restraints in Juvenile Courts
Effective April 1, 2015, a Judicial Branch policy established a presumption that mechanical restraints will be removed from a juvenile prior to and throughout his or her appearance in juvenile court. Under the policy, in-court restraints may be used only pursuant to a judge's order in accordance with the policy.
The policy requires a classification and program officer from the Court Support Services Division to complete a form before transporting a juvenile to juvenile court. On the form, the officer must indicate whether restraints are recommended and, if so, the types. The policy specifies factors that must be present to support the use of these restraints (e.g., whether the juvenile has threatened or attempted to escape or is charged with a class A felony).
If the juvenile's lawyer or other parties disagree with the recommendation, they may address the court before the juvenile appears in court. After hearing from all parties, the judge determines which restraints, if any, are appropriate.
Any restraints removed under this policy must be immediately reapplied upon completion of the court hearing, in a secure area outside the courtroom.
Joint Favorable Substitute