Transgender teen detained without charges, held in isolation at adult prison

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A transgender teenage girl detained without being charged at Connecticut's adult women's prison is being held in isolation more than a month after being sent there by a state judge, her lawyer said this week.

Advocates for the 16-year-old girl, known only as Jane Doe in court proceedings because she is a minor, say they're worried the continued isolation will cause her more psychological harm. The teen has said in court documents that she was raped and beaten while in the custody of the Department of Children and Families by relatives and a DCF worker — allegations that DCF is looking into.

"It's widely recognized that solitary confinement is … particularly dangerous to the psychological health of children," said David McGuire, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. "Jane Doe is not an adult. She is not a criminal. She does not belong in prison, let alone in solitary confinement."

The teen's lawyer, Aaron Romano, said that she is still detained in isolation and called her imprisonment "a human rights abuse."

A state Juvenile Court judge on April 8 ordered the girl transferred from DCF custody to the state Department of Correction at the request of DCF officials, who said she was too violent for them to handle. DCF invoked a seldom-used law allowing for such a move.

It was only the second time a judge has granted such a request and the first time a transgender juvenile has been transferred from DCF to the Correction Department, according to state officials and the girl's lawyer.

Late last week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy pressed for the girl to be moved out of the adult prison. A spokesman for Malloy said that the governor and DCF Commissioner Joette Katz agree that the teen must be moved as quickly as possible and that Katz was working on a plan.

The girl, meanwhile, has filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to ban the state from detaining her in an adult prison and to order DCF to create programming for treating and rehabilitating transgender youth that she could attend. A status conference was scheduled for today.

The girl has been at the York Correctional Institution women's prison in East Lyme since the judge's ruling. Judge Burton Kaplan ordered that she be held in isolation for no more than 72 hours while prison officials evaluated where to place her, but then left it up to Correction Department officials on where and how she should be detained — making it possible to continue her isolation.

A Department of Correction spokesman, Andrius Banevicius, declined to comment earlier in the week on whether the girl is in solitary confinement. He cited state laws banning the release of information about juveniles. He said the agency is making every effort to appropriately treat and supervise her.

The girl's supporters also have criticized state officials for originally seeking to have the girl detained at a boy's detention center.