Sexual assault allegations at State Juvenile Detention Centers triggers search for answers

HARTFORD --  Connecticut’s Committee on Children held a hearing Thursday to probe for answers into allegations of sexual abuse at state Juvenile Detention Centers.

The Committee heard testimony from the Office of the Child Advocate, the state’s Judicial Branch, and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

The Committee’s House Chairwoman, State Representative Diana Urban, called for the hearing after a detention officer at the Hartford Juvenile Detention Center was arrested and charged in November for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old inmate.

“I think what we’re talking about today is what are we doing about it? And what do we plan on doing about it?” State Rep. Urban said.

Gloria Campos, of the Special Investigations unit of DCF testified before the committee saying her department ran an investigation into Connecticut’s two juvenile detention centers, located in Bridgeport and Hartford, from November 2016 to the present day.  Campos said they found numerous cases of misconduct and concern

“In one case detention center staff engaged in a sexual act with a juvenile resident in her room while other staff were on duty and should have known what was occurring,” Campos said.  She went on to say they also found problems with breaches in confidentiality and failures of staff to report suspected abuse or neglect.

“The judicial branch is committed to making whatever changes are warranted,” Judge Patrick Carroll III, Chief Court Administrator, said during the Judicial Branch’s testimony.

The Judicial Branch said they brought in, Leo Arnone, DCF’s former bureau chief of juvenile services and a national expert in adult and juvenile facilities, to carry out their own investigation of the issues.  Arnone testifying Thursday, his findings were more positive than the DCF’s.

“There were some bad people that did bad things here, no doubt about it, there were some people who didn’t do their jobs, no doubt about it. But at the end of the day these facilities are operating at a level that is better than any I have seen,” Arnone said.

He added both the Bridgeport and Hartford Juvenile Detention Centers have maintained their national accreditation, but that his findings did reveal issues with supervision policies, a need for more surveillance cameras, and a need for more women staff at the facilities.  Arnone said all three concerns are being worked on.