A two-year federal probe has uncovered evidence that residents of a state-run juvenile lockup in Connecticut were improperly punished with solitary confinement and systematically deprived of mental health services and schooling.
The Department of Justice findings bolstered an earlier report by the state’s children’s watchdog that found similar problems at the Manson Youth Institution in Cheshire, which houses minors whose cases have been transferred to the adult justice system and young adults up to age 21. There were 42 children younger than 18 incarcerated there as of Dec. 1, according to the Connecticut Mirror. Of the 305 children and young adults there at the time, 171 were Black and 88 were Hispanic, the Mirror said.
State Child Advocate Sarah Eagan praised the Justice Department’s “powerful” report, which relied on a January 2020 tour of the Manson facility, interviews with dozens of professional employees and the examination of 31,000 documents.
“It’s sweeping and makes findings across the board that children’s civil rights and constitutional rights are violated in every way that they can be,” Eagan said. “Having the Justice Department follow up our statutorily required investigation with a comprehensive investigation in its own element, and issue findings that mirror our findings, but that are defined in terms of civil rights violations, is an extremely important development in our state’s understanding of the rights of incarcerated children, the level of need that these children have for treatment and education support, and the obligation of the state to ensure those needs are met.”
The DOJ investigators concluded that conditions at Manson violated minors’ rights to due process and equal protection under the Eighth and 14th amendments as well as rights spelled out in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney General’s Office told the Mirror that the office is reviewing the report and will work with the Connecticut Department of Correction and DOJ to address the issues it raised.
“Children in adult correctional facilities do not forfeit their constitutional and federal rights,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “Our investigation uncovered systemic evidence that children are deprived of the mental health and special education services they need to become productive, successful adults. When children misbehave, Manson frequently subjects them to harmful periods of isolation, despite evidence that children are uniquely vulnerable to the traumatic and lasting damage isolation causes.”
To portray the problems in stark human terms — and not just numbers — the 27-page DOJ report addressed to Gov. Ned Lamont (D) centered on the plight of one incarcerated youth.