For the past ten years, the state of Connecticut has made great strides in improving their juvenile justice system. The campaign revolved around minimizing the juvenile court’s caseload, by keeping minors away from trouble through progressive and productive means. This includes addressing the very behaviors that lead juveniles into problems with the law, keeping minors with no criminal offenses from being tied down in lengthy court proceedings, encouraging children to participate more in community-based activities, and if possible – bailing out Farmington (CT) juvenile suspects instead of keeping them detained while their case is being heard.
The efforts are not wasted, as Connecticut’s juvenile case load has seen a dramatic increase within the past couple of years. And studies and surveys conducted since have fortunately revealed that the changes did not affect public safety, nor has it colored the opinions of CT residents as to how safe they are in their city.
The benefits are not exclusive to keeping the children out of jail, as the reduced rate of juvenile crime meant that the state’s money is spent on more productive social programs. This also reduced the state’s need to spend from its coffers, effectively saving taxpayer money.
Challenges that Hinder the System
However, despite the positive gains and the proof that the campaign works, there are still challenges that need to be addressed if the campaign is to continue providing positive effects to the state. Chief among them is the threat of budget cuts. While the campaigns are done with cost-effectiveness in mind, they still require a budget. Gutting it will be tragic for the children, bad for public safety, and ultimately a huge setback for taxpayers.
Other challenges include:
- Children of color tend to be over-represented, and there are times when they receive harsher punishment compared to caucasian children.
- There are still many minors who are unnecessarily introduced to the justice system
- 17 year old men and women, who are still minors, are still sent to the adult penal system
- Many of Connecticut’s convicted children are sent somewhere out of state.
Meting Out Only Appropriate Sanctions and Punitive Measures
One of the first solutions that is being proposed is to focus on only serving the appropriate sanctions for children accused of committing crimes. The aim should not be to punish children, but merely to correct their behavior and prevent disruptions of public safety.
With this in mind, Connecticut’s plan of action involves foregoing expensive incarceration for low-risk juveniles, but still reserve heavy-handed approaches to edge cases, where minors have proven to be especially difficult to handle or pose very real harm to other residents.
No Such Thing as “One Size Fits All”
Ultimately, Connecticut’s Juvenile Justice System is moving away from outmoded programs of the past, which are all based on offenses and tend to rely more on “one size fits all” approach. The ever-improving system at work relies more on custom-tailoring the approach to children based on various factors. This will ensure that the justice system is fair, cost-efficient, and always beneficial to CT residents.
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