Why is a Trans Teen Still in Jail a Month Later without Criminal Charges?
A month ago, Care2 shared a story about a transgendered 16-year-old who was being held in jail without charges. Although a lot of attention has been brought to the case and the hashtag #Justice4Jane even trended on Twitter, the girl unfairly still remains behind bars.
Not much is known about the teenager. Named simply as “Jane Doe” on court documents, the teen has been bounced between state juvenile facilities after being removed from the custody of her prior guardians following prolonged physical abuse. Abuse begat abuse, and Doe is accused of attacking employees at the facilities at which she was temporarily residing.
“I admit that I have acted out and got into fights. I am not saying it was OK, but I have a lot of stuff built up inside me and don’t know how to deal with it at times,” wrote Doe. While her violent outbursts are unacceptable, it’s not hard to imagine how an individual with a rough childhood and a lack of emotional support might respond to stressful situations in this manner.
Despite Doe’s admissions of violent behavior, that in itself is not enough to hold her in prison without first charging her criminally. At the very least, it would seem that the state would have charged Doe by now with some kind of assault to justify transferring her to an adult facility. Weeks later, however, there are still no charges that warrant keeping her locked up anywhere.
“We’re not in Abu Gharib, we’re in Connecticut, in a constitution state,” said Doe’s lawyer, Aaron Romano. “This is nothing short of human rights abuse… My client is an emotionally distressed child who has been victimized by people over and over again. She’s not charged with a crime, yet she was locked down in isolation, with a concrete block for her apartment, watched by guards 22 hours a day, even while she showered.”
The ACLU has taken up Doe’s cause and criticized Connecticut officials’ insensitive attitude toward the incarcerated young woman. While the organization understands that the state probably chose to put Doe in solitary confinement because it was initially unsure where to house a trans minor, allowing the problem to persist this long is both cruel and unconstitutional.
In terms of sorting out Doe’s incarceration dilemma sooner than later, it doesn’t help that Governor Dannel Malloy has voiced his support for how Joette Katz, the commissioner for the Department of Children and Families, has handled the matter. It is unclear why the governor believes leaving a teenager sitting in adult jail indefinitely without cause is an adequate solution.
In 2011, Connecticut passed a trans protection bill. Although this legislation ensured that trans citizens would be treated equally on the job, applying for housing and obtaining credit rather than anything pertaining to prison, Doe’s inexplicable struggles show that the state still has quite a way to go in learning to treat transgender people with respect and equally under the law.
It’s time to up the pressure – sign this petition to demand that Connecticut stop holding Jane Doe in prison without charges.