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EXCLUSIVE: Detention officer says short staffing leads to unsafe, dangerous conditions in Conn.

HARTFORD – “It has caused more chaos.”

Suspects charged with, or convicted of stabbings, carjackings and murders are all detained inside the state’s juvenile detention centers.

“It has caused more fights, more assaults that happened on staff. More staff going out on worker’s comp,” alleges a state juvenile detention officer.

They have asked to keep their identity hidden.

What they won’t hide are the issues they say are going on inside their workplace—all due to under-staffing and an influx of detainees alleges the worker.

“It has definitely increased the actual risk for staff and juveniles,” said the officer.

In April, the state ordered the closure of the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown. It was a facility that housed serious juvenile offenders. The decision forced them to be housed with boys in pretrial detention centers.

This officer said their facilities are not set up to meet the needs of more dangerous, post-conviction offenders.

“These are more aggressive juveniles. More juveniles that don’t care. We’re not dealing with kids. A lot of people in the public think we're dealing with kids but it's not kids,” said the officer.

The officer claims injuries to co-workers are so bad that some even needed surgery.

“I have seen concussions. I have seen knee injuries, back injuries. It’s your fair share of any type of injury you could actually think of trying to either stop yourself from getting assaulted by a juvenile or breaking up a fight or riot,” said the officer.

The officer said the violence has caused an uptick of worker’s compensation cases, according to statistics from the State’s Worker’s Compensation Commission.

Between January 1 and September 10 of 2018, there were 96 reported injuries at the Bridgeport and Hartford Juvenile Detention Facilities. That is more than double the amount of the same time last year.

Gary Roberge is the executive director of the court support services division of the State’s Judicial Branch. His department handles staffing for juvenile detention centers. He said the worker’s compensation issues aren’t new.

“A couple of years ago we ran into the same type of thing with individuals going out on workers comp so it runs in cycles. It’s part of the business that we do unfortunately. But I don’t think we can relate it directly to that,” said Roberge.

Roberge also said his department has already addressed the staffing issues.

“We brought 18 juvenile detention officers on in June to address some of the staff shortages that we have and we are also bringing on another 25 in October,” said Roberge.

The juvenile detention officer claims several of those workers either walked out or gave their two week notice due to unsafe workplace conditions.

Roberge said this issue will be fixed rather quickly. The Judicial Department is looking at community based facilities to house juveniles.

“We’ll be issuing an RFP to run secure facilities out in the community that will be able to provide services to some of the kids that we’re talking about. So we are optimistic that that will sometime at the beginning of next year,” said Roberge.

It’s a solution the juvenile detention officer feels won’t come soon enough.

“We have a long way to go from now until next year. So that means more staff could get hurt. More juveniles could feel unsafe. It's just too much time. All of these decisions should have been in tact before this program came in.”

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