In video footage from inside Connecticut's juvenile correctional facilities, a distressed girl screams as she is restrained on the ground in a corridor. She is left alone, and she ties a shirt tightly around her neck, tries to pull nail-studded wood off the wall and ultimately is taken out of the facility on a stretcher. In another video, a boy who had reported suicidal thoughts is restrained and left lying on the floor, alone in a room. The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange says a chart in an accompanying report from the state's Office of Child Advocate tallies 55 instances of suicidal or self-harming behavior during a year in the facilities.
The release of the video and report yesterday is the latest from the watchdog agency, which helped reignite a debate about the safety and efficacy of the facilities in July with a critical report on conditions. The discussion mirrors debates elsewhere about locking up juveniles and the services they need when they are confined. Connecticut is lauded as a leader in juvenile justice reforms and its decisions are likely to be watched carefully. Sarah Eagan, the state's Child Advocate, said many correctional facilities have evidence of self-injury, suicidal behavior and the inappropriate use of restraint. There's little data that the facilities work as a public safety measure. “If we're not seeing sort of rehabilitative, public safety bang for our buck and we are seeing a lot of risk and despair, the question that stakeholders and the state have to look at it is: How do we do the public safety work without doing harm to kids?'' she said.