DCF head: Improvements being made at juvenile facilities

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HARTFORD — Wednesday afternoon The Department of Children and Families commissioner said many improvements have been made at the state’s juvenile detention facilities, including a stronger focus on rehabilitating troubled youth.

Joette Katz told state lawmakers the population at the state Juvenile Training School for boys in Middletown has never been lower than today. She said the frequency of restraints being used on the youth is also declining.

The hearing comes after a recent Office of the Child Advocate report which found delinquent youth have been subject to unlawful and repeated restraint and isolation.

The report also highlighted a pressing need for more suicide prevention practices, and showed that DCF was relying too heavily on restraint and seclusion at its Middletown facilities, the Connecticut Juvenile Training Unit for boys and Pueblo Unit for girls.

DCF paid $40,000 for the report, and in response the agency created an action plan calling for an end to certain restraints used on boys and girls.

It also called for an expansion to its clinical staff on the second shift, when youth are out of school, and counseling for when they’ve been placed in seclusion.

The General Assembly’s Children’s Committee held an informational hearing Wednesday on CJTS and Pueblo.

Additional forums and public hearings are planned in the coming months.