The Case of Jane Doe: Behind Bars and Behind the Times?
By Jacqueline Stoughton
The Connecticut transgender female teen publically identified as “Jane Doe,” who made national headlines last year following the discovery that she had been transferred from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to the Department of Corrections (DOC) due to assault allegations, is now out of incarceration. Her lawyer James Connolly has been asked by Doe not to discuss specific details about where she is staying, but she is currently back in the custody of DCF.
The state appellate court ruled last month that Doe’s rights were violated when she was transferred into prison. The court says the state judge who initially approved this ruling did not hold DCF to high enough standards as far as presenting adequate proof that Doe was as violent as they claimed her to be.
The transfer to the DOC raised questions since Doe was never charged for anything of which she was accused. Civil rights activists across the country were stunned at the mistreatment implemented by DCF onto the now 17-year-old, accusing DCF of not doing their job. More outrage erupted over the placement of the troubled teen girl into the Connecticut Juvenile Training School for Boys.Connolly explained he appealed that the statute of incarcerating a minor without criminal charges is unconstitutional. “The judge never told her that by being a part of DCF, they could transfer her into prison.
“We were disappointed that the reversal of trial court was on the burden of proof; you shouldn’t be allowed to put anyone without charges in prison. To me, it’s beyond belief that a statute like this even exists,” said Connolly. “A change in legislation was proposed trying to eliminate the possibility of a child to be incarcerated; it failed but is likely to be introduced in the next session. The case isn’t over yet. A petition for certification is a possibility to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.”
Sarah Eagan, Child Advocate, said to the Hartford Courant in March that she would like to see DCF produce more clinical evidence, such as mental health findings or expert consultation, that would support the placement of a minor who has not been charged with anything into an adult prison.
Gary Kleebatt, DCF Media Spokesman, was unavailable for comment.
“[The state] basically has been [Jane Doe’s] parents for a few years,” said Rep. Toni Walker (D-New Haven) in a statement to the Hartford Courant. “When parents have difficult children, you can’t isolate them and hope they get better. In this regard, I feel we abandoned our child. Instead of going straight to incarceration, we need to try multiple levels of mental health treatment, especially with gender issues. We’re still learning how to work with that. In this case we got it wrong, and we have to be big enough to say we don’t want to get it wrong again.”
Doe has been involved with DCF since age nine. She was transported to multiple institutions and children’s hospitals across Connecticut and Massachusetts due to claims of “assaultive behavior while in placement facilities,” according to Doe’s memorandum published in May 2014.
Although there are allegations of mistreatment against Doe, according to the memorandum, CJTS staff provided her with education and recreational activities one-on-one. She refused to participate initially, but later warmed up to the idea of taking part in individualized activities.
Though Doe’s transfer into a Connecticut adult prison was short-lived, advocates are stepping up by fighting for a change in law that would make it more difficult for the transfer of minors to be approved.