Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-7050

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM.

Vote Date:

4/9/2015

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/30/2015

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

Rep. Toni Walker suggested many enhancements to the juvenile justice system.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Division of Criminal Justice: Opposes Sections 1,2 and 4 of this bill.

Section 1 would eliminate the mandatory transfer to the regular (adult) docket of the criminal proceeding involving a juvenile charged with class B felonies. Such charges include, but not limited to, Manslaughter in the First Degree, Manslaughter in the First Degree with a Firearm, Assault in the First Degree, Assault of and Elderly, Blind, Disabled or Pregnant person or a Person with Intellectual Disability in the First Degree.

Perhaps the most significant implication of adjudicating the case on the regular docket is the ultimate sanctions available to the court in the final disposition of the case. The most severe sanction that may be imposed for a matter disposed of in the juvenile courts is the commitment of the offender to the Department of Children and Families for an indeterminate period of up to 18 months, or up to four years if adjudicated delinquent for a serious juvenile offense. DCF commitments are also terminated when the defendant turns age 20 regardless of the amount of time left on the commitment. For a matter decided on the regular docket, the penalty can include incarceration in the custody of the Department of Correction for a period that can conceivably and appropriately exceed four years and continue beyond the defendant's 20th birthday. These class B felony cases are serious, and in most cases, violent crimes and should be treated as such.

Section 2 of this bill would require that a parent be present with a 16 or 17 year-old when they are interviewed by the police or a juvenile court official. Such a requirement already exists for anyone under age 16, but those age 16 or 17 can waive their right to have a parent present but only after they have been properly advised of their rights and the police have made a reasonable attempt to contact a parent.

Section 4 of this bill sounds well-intended but may, in fact, result in a greater danger to the juvenile him or herself as well as to others who are present in the course of court proceedings. As the Division has stated in the past, if this bill were to be enacted, a juvenile being transported to court from a secure facility would be free of restraints for the first time when he or she is brought into court. For any juvenile contemplating escape or assault on the judge, prosecutor, probation officer or victim that may be present, being brought into the courtroom unrestrained would present the first opportunity to take such action. This might result in injury to those present including the juvenile him or herself.

State Victim Advocate, Natasha M. Pierre, Esq.: Opposes this bill. Section 1 of this bill attempts to further dilute the manner in which the criminal justice system responds to serious crimes committed by juvenile offenders by eliminating the automatic transfer of Class B felonies to adult court.

Office of the Chief Public Defender, Susan Storey: Supports this bill. The Office of the Chief Public Defender supports passage of this bill and urges this Committee to report favorably on this proposal. This bill includes a number of important concepts that will make the juvenile justice system fairer to the children who enter the juvenile court each year. Much of what appears in this bill is not new. The proposals regarding Class B felonies and discretionary transfers, the admissibility of statements for 16 and 17 year-olds and shackling have been proposed by our Office and debated before this committee in past sessions. Given recent statutory changes and Supreme Court rulings, the Office of Chief Public Defender believes that these proposals are more important than ever and should receive favorable consideration.

The Office of the Child Advocate, Sarah Eagan: Supports this bill. The OCA strongly supports additional provisions as this bill strengthens the raise the age reforms. This bill would accomplish the following.

1. Increase the age of transferring youth to adult court from 14 to 15.

2. Permit court authority to hear the appropriateness of transferring minors charged with C, D and now B felonies.

3. Raises the age at which a child's admission or alleged confession must be made in the presence of a parent or guardian from 16 to 18.

4. Appropriately defines the roll of the legislature's Juvenile Justice Policy Oversight Committee to ensure effective and transparent strategic planning and investment in continued juvenile justice reforms.

State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, External Affairs Division, Hon. Bernadette Conway: Opposes section 4 of this bill. This section should prohibit any child appearing in court to be physically restrained by the use of shackles, handcuffs or other mechanical restraints prior to being adjudicated as delinquent, unless the judge determines that the use of such restraints is necessary to ensure the safety of the public. The Judicial Branch agrees that shackling juveniles during a court proceeding should occur only when absolutely necessary. In fact, the Judicial Branch has recently developed a policy regarding the use of mechanical restraints in juvenile courtroom, which will go into effect on April 1, 2015

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Christopher S. Murphy, United States Senator: Supports this bill. Most states, including Connecticut, still allow the indiscriminate shackling of young people in their juvenile courtrooms, but this is changing rapidly. In the past 12 months three states have changed their policies to allow shackling only in those rare circumstances when a youth presents a safety risk that cannot be managed by less drastic measures. The American Bar Association and the Child Welfare League of America have both recently come out against the automatic shackling of youth in court. It is my sincere hope that Connecticut can continue to be at the forefront of juvenile justice reform and pass anti-shackling legislation this session. This bill is an encouraging step, but I believe it could be further strengthened to ensure that shackling of youth is a practice that is used in only the most extreme and rare circumstances. To that end, I respectfully offer the following suggested language:

Instrument of restraint, such as handcuffs, chains, irons, or straitjackets, may not be used on a child during a court proceeding and must be removed prior to the child's appearance before the court unless the court finds both that;

1. The use of such restraints is necessary to ensure the safety of the public; and

2. There are no less restrictive alternatives to restraints that will prevent flight or physical harm to the child or another person, including, but not limited to, the presence of court personnel, law enforcement officers, or bailiffs.

The court shall provide the juvenile's attorney an opportunity to be heard before the court orders the use of restraints. If restraints are ordered, the court shall make findings of fact in support of the order.

Brianna E., Manny F., Curtis R, Kamri: Support this Bill. All submitted written and oral testimony of their feeling of humiliation, degradation and depression as a result of being shackled during their appearance in juvenile court. Some expressed the feeling of pain from the shackles as well. They asked what the purpose of the shackles were since there were ample court personnel in attendance to handle any problems that may have arisen.

Dr. Julian Ford, UCONN Health Center: Supports this bill. I would like to express my strong support for legislation that places limits on shackling in our state's juvenile courts. Relationships of trust are important for pre-adolescents and adolescents. When a figure who should be worthy of trust, such as a juvenile court judge, subjects a youth to the humiliation of being chained, the youth will perceive that as a betrayal of trust. The experience of betrayal, despite this not being at all the intent of the court, can break down the adolescent's willingness to engage in restorative actions.

In controlling the body, shackles also control behavior. One of the developmental tasks of adolescence, which is congruent with the mission of the juvenile court, is self-regulation. Shackles make self-regulation impossible, or a distant second to escape and survival, reducing a young person's own motivation to develop this capacity. Shackling shifts focus from controlling one's own behavior to an overwhelming need to break free from those restraints. Instead of thinking, “How should I be behaving right now” a young person will think, “How do I get out of these?”. Self-regulation is critical to a young person's success in the community.

There are better ways of managing behavior, even with youth who present challenges. Staffing by professionals who understand youth development and the effects of trauma will prevent adverse events in most cases.

Marisa Mascolo Halm, Esq, Center for Children's Advocacy: Supports this bill. This bill will establish 1. legal guidelines for and a presumption against the shackling of youth in the courtroom; 2. expand the protections for confessions made by youth accused of crimes or delinquencies without their parent present up until their eighteenth birthday; and , 3, increase the age of transfer to adult court for juveniles to the age of fifteen. While limiting the class of felonies for transfer to only the most serious class A felonies, the Center strongly urges you to pass Section 4 in its entirety, while also adding in a provision that establishes the right for youth to have a hearing in front of a judge if there is a disagreement about their being shackled in court.

Donald Rosenblitt, M.D., Lucy Daniels Center: Supports this bill. North Carolina law allows for shackling only when reasonably necessary. Courtrooms in North Carolina are just as safe now as they were prior to this policy being enacted. I would encourage Connecticut to take similar action. Shackling is not necessary to maintain acceptable courtroom behavior. Indeed, it may engender more problem behavior. It humiliates young people and reactivates past traumas. All of this occurs at a sensitive period in their development and may do permanent harm.

Eugene Griffin, J.D., Ph.D., The Child Trauma Academy: Supports this bill. Indiscriminate shackling is excessively punitive and, in some cases, can trigger a trauma reaction. Adults attempting to shackle a calm youth can trigger classic traumatic responses, such as fighting, fleeing or freezing. The violent behavior and running behavior are more easily identifiable. The freezing behavior (disassociation) is more passive (meaning that it is harder to distinguish, and may lead most people to believe that the young person is doing fine) but results in a youth being unable to talk, listen or communicate.

When adults treat youth punitively as a matter of course, the relationship and interaction between the adults and the youth is adversely affected. Shackling a youth who has shown no signs of violence or intent to escape can be perceived by the youth as excessive and unfair. This perception is likely to embarrass and distress the youth. A youth who is upset will be less likely to think rationally, more likely to act out, and less able to communicate with his attorney or pay attention to courtroom proceedings.

Gwyneth Rost, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Supports Section 4 of this bill. The language of court proceedings is more complex than is typical of adolescent daily life. It is beyond the developmentally appropriate limits for young adolescents. The gap is even wider for youth with language disabilities. Youth in the justice system are likely to have undiagnosed language-related disabilities. The juvenile justice system further hampers the communication abilities of the youth by shackling them. Restraint impedes communication in four ways; a) it impedes gesture use, making the act of speaking more difficult, b) it impedes language from linguistic interactions. Therefore, when language is difficult, they will often fail to process what they are told or asked. Restraining youth in academic situations leads to poorer learning outcomes: the same student will learn a lesson better when unrestrained than when restrained. c) Shackling can interfere with functional reading strategies and d) shackling can interfere with functional writing.

Robert J. Bidwell, M.D. Supports Section 4 of this bill. I have worked extensively with youth in youth detention and correctional facilities. When I meet with youth at the detention and correctional facilities, I ask them if they have been shackled. Most say yes. Handcuffs and ankle chains are most frequently reported. Many youth report at least minor injuries to their ankles and wrists. Though the physical harm is troubling, it is the lasting emotional effect of shackling that most concerns me as a pediatrician. Adolescents are exceptionally vulnerable to the humiliation inherent in shackling. A fundamental task of adolescence is to develop a sense of self and self-esteem. Shackling implies that one is bad, dangerous, a criminal, or sub-human, leading youth to see themselves in this way. This might lead someone who would otherwise be rehabilitated to engage in anti-social behavior.

Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Assoc.: Supports this bill. This bill would make Connecticut's juvenile justice system reflect the realities of the brain development of juveniles and change it to treat those juveniles in age-appropriate ways. There is a national consensus that juveniles are different than adults and should not be treated the same way. The CCDLA echoed previously stated support for the issues in raising the age, interrogation and shackling.

Jill M. Ruane, Esq., Supports this bill. Often children appearing in delinquency court are already victims of physical, sexual abuse and/or emotional abuse. Thus, shackling and restraining already-victimized children serves to re-traumatize that child. Shackling and restraints counter the rehabilitative goals of the Juvenile Justice System because it induces shame, punishes the youth prior to a guilty finding, and creates mistrust in the juvenile system.

Amecican Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut,_David McGuire, Staff Atty., Supports this bill. This bill would bring our Juvenile sentencing scheme into line with the judicial trends by accounting for major differences between children and adults. In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has relied on scientific studies about adolescent brain development. The Court has stressed that youth are less culpable for their crimes and more capable of rehabilitation. In Miller v. Alabama (2012) the Court specifically noted juveniles' “diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform.” The Court has made unquestionably clear that children are different than adults and that difference must be reflected in how courts sentence children in adult court.

Connecticut Voices for Children, Sarah Iverson: Supports this bill. This bill reduces the unnecessary shackling of juveniles in court and includes other provisions that take youth-related factors into account in the juvenile justice system, more specifically raising the age from 14 to 15 for automatic transfer from the juvenile docket to the adult docket and removes the provision allowing automatic transfers of class B felonies from the juvenile docket to the adult criminal docket.

Campaign Against Indiscriminate Juvenile Shackling, David A. Shapiro, Esq. Manager: Supports this bill. National best practices establish that effective shackling reform contains at least three basic components: 1) that shackles be used only when absolutely necessary; 2) that there be a presumption against their use; and 3) that there be an opportunity for the child's attorney to contest the use of shackles. While the proposed bill is worthy of support, we recommend that the language be amended to include this third principle of providing the child's attorney an opportunity to contest the use of shackles.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

None Submitted

Reported by: George Marinelli

4-24-15