OLR Research Report

Connecticut General Assembly


January 26,1998 98-R-0154


FROM: Lawrence K. Furbish, Assistant Director

John Kasprak, Senior Attorney

RE: Current Status of Changes to Mansfield and Southbury Training Schools and

Long Lane School

You asked about the current status of changes to the Mansfield and Southbury Training Schools operated by the Department of Mental Retardation (DMR) and Long Lane School, the facility for delinquent children operated by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).


Mansfield and Southbury have both been subject to intensive litigation, some of which continues today. Mansfield was closed in 1993 with all of its residents transferred to other facilities. Some of the buildings are being used by other state departments, such as the Department of Correction.

Southbury is currently operating under a consent decree. United States District Court Judge Ellen Bree Burns has found the state in contempt for failing to enforce a 10-year-old order to improve conditions and appointed a “special master” to oversee school operations. The state appealed the contempt ruling, but the U.S. Supreme Court refused to accept the case. In another court case pending against Southbury the plaintiffs have asked that the school be closed and the residents moved to community living arrangements.

DCF is proceeding with plans to expand the number of secure beds at Long Lane School from 56 to 131. Part of the plan is to reduce the total number of beds at the school from the current number of over 200 to the 131 level, which means the facility will become a completely secure facility. Groundbreaking is not expected before late 1998 at the earliest. Discussions have taken place about relocating Long Lane at Connecticut Valley Hospital, which is operated by the Department of Mental Health and Addictions Services, with Wesleyan University perhaps purchasing the Long Lane grounds. These discussions have involved the Governor's office and the Office of Policy and Management. Their current status is unclear.


In 1978, DMR became the defendant in a federal class action suit, Connecticut Association of Retarded Citizens (CARC) v. Thorne. CARC, representing clients at Mansfield, contended that care provided to residents there and those transferred to other long-term care facilities violated the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws designed to protect the disabled. The case was settled in 1984 through a consent decree that applied to about 1,300 individuals residing at Mansfield or in danger of being placed there on a particular date. Under the terms of the consent decree Mansfield Training School closed on April 24, 1993. The residents were transferred to other facilities or were provided alternative forms of care. The class of mentally retarded individuals subject to Thorne still exists, but because the school itself is closed the case is only alive in terms of DMR's ongoing obligation to care for these people.


In 1984 plaintiffs filed the case of United States of America v. State of Connecticut which concerned Southbury Training School. The case involved allegations of civil rights violations based on conditions at the school. It was settled through a consent decree in 1986. This case involved only people living at the school. The consent decree required DMR to: (1) assure sufficient staffing to protect and enhance the life of residents; (2) provide periodic, professional evaluation of residents and communication about their care, training, and medical needs; (3) create more community-based opportunities for residents; and (4) improve the physical environment of the facility to eliminate fire and safety hazards.

Southbury remains open with a population in fall 1997 of about 750 residents, down from 1,200 in 1986, the year the state entered the consent decree. The court case has continued. In fall 1993 federal officials visited Southbury as part of the Justice Department's enforcement of the decree. In 1994 the Justice Department sent the state a letter calling Southbury “a very dangerous place.” Federal officials concluded that residents were not being adequately cared for and recommended appointment of a special master.

In 1995 the Justice Department filed a contempt motion in Federal District Court in New Haven, and a hearing was held in August of that year. On June19, 1996 Judge Burns ruled that the state was in contempt for the original consent decree and two subsequent court orders regarding the school. She ruled that attempts to satisfy the consent decree had not achieved the desired results and found the state in contempt regarding the provisions concerning psychological, medical, and physical therapy services. The state appealed Judge Burn's decision, first to the Second Circuit Court of appeals, which dismissed it, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the state's appeal on January 12, 1998.

In July 1997 Judge Burns appointed attorney David Ferleger, a specialist in disability law from Philadelphia, as special master. He is charged with finding out why the state's efforts are not producing the intended results and make recommendations to the court.

Meanwhile another case has been filed, Richard Messier, et al. V. Southbury Training School. Plaintiffs are asking that the school be closed and the residents transferred to alternative community living arrangements. Expert witness have toured the facility and both sides have been taking depositions. The trial is not expected to begin until mid-1998.


Plans for Long Lane School go back at least to 1994 when the General Assembly authorized $14 million in bonding to construct a new building on the site. In 1995 in conjunction with a major juvenile justice initiative, Governor Rowland proposed spending $18 million to more than double the number of secure beds at Long Lane. OPM has applied for and received $4 million in federal funds for the project.

According to John LaChapelle, superintendent at Long Lane, the school now has three 12-bed secure housing units that were opened in the early 1970s and a 20-bed wing that opened in 1994. Plans call for adding 75 new secure beds by renovating an existing school building and building new living units. The new 131 secure beds will be exclusively male; the school now has both males and females.

According to LaChapelle, architects have developed design drawings and a contract has been let for the environmental impact statement. The department is about to put a contract out to bid for demolition of a cottage and a few outbuildings. LaChapelle does not expect groundbreaking to occur until late 1998 or early 1999.

Negotiations have been going on for some time about an alternative site for the entire Long Lane facility. Wesleyan University, whose campus abuts Long Lane, has been interested in obtaining the property. Proposals have been made to move the school to the grounds of Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH). Last August a Hartford Courant article described a proposed deal for Wesleyan to obtain the main portion of the Long Lane campus, the city of Middletown to acquire the rest of the school property, and Long Lane to move to Connecticut Valley. Nothing more has been forthcoming about this proposal. According to LaChapelle, it would cost between $35 and $40 to construct a new Long Lane facility on the grounds of CVH, and unless the extra money (above the $18 million now available) comes from selling the school land, it would end up costing the state additional funds. For now DCF is proceeding on the assumption that the school will stay at its current location.