Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s proposal to allow the state Board of Pardons and Paroles access to sealed juvenile offender records is meeting resistance from youth advocates, reports the Hartford Courant. Rell wants the board to have access to the sealed files when they make decisions about whether to release prisoners and what kind of treatment or supervision they should have. Her proposal is part of a criminal justice reform package expected to be voted on when the legislature convenes for a special session Tuesday.
Lawmakers have been working to tighten the supervision of state prisoners ready for release after the murders of three members of the Petit family in Cheshire last July. The two suspects in that case had recently been released on parole despite their extensive criminal histories, some of which dated to when they were juveniles. Some youth advocates fear that opening the files undermines the basic principles of juvenile justice and is unfair to individuals who shouldn’t be punished for their reckless behavior when they were young. “This really eviscerates the purpose of juvenile court, which is to provide rehabilitation in a confidential setting,” said Martha Stone of the Center for Children’s Advocacy at the University of Connecticut School of Law. Stone cites scientific research showing that adolescents’ brains continue to develop through their early 20s and that teenagers are not able to fully appreciate the wrongfulness of their acts until their bodies have fully matured.