Transfer of Transgender Teen Deemed Improper

     HARTFORD, Conn. (CN) – A Connecticut appeals court found that the state violated a transgender juvenile delinquent’s rights by transferring her to an adult prison.
     Angel R., as she is named in the decision, has a long history of exhibiting “assaultive behavior” toward staff members and other juveniles, according to the opinion slated for official release on June 16.
     Her run-ins with the Department of Child and Family Services (DCF) since the age of 5 ultimately led to Angel’s adjudication as delinquent back in 2013.
     The guilty plea preceding that designation led to Angel’s placement at Meadowridge Academy in Massachusetts and then at Connecticut Juvenile Training School.
     Within a week at the school, DCF tried to transfer Angel to a high-security for male offenders between the ages of 14 and 21 run by the Department of Corrections.
     This facility’s residents usually have pending adult charges or are serving adult sentences as a consequence of having been tried in the Superior Court as adults, the ruling states.
     Though the Fairfield Superior Court refused to dismiss the transfer, it transferred Angel to a DOC-run facility for female offenders, the York Correctional Institution in Niantic.
     The ruling notes that Angel was returned to the custody of the Department of Children and Families on June 24, 2014, but continues to appeal the legitimacy of her transfer to DOC custody.
     In reversing the trial court’s judgment this month, a three-judge appellate panel found that DCF failed to provide evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the teen was of a significant enough danger to warrant a transfer to a corrections facility.
     “We conclude, accordingly, that in order to protect the constitutionality of the transfer statute, the burden should be on DCF to adduce evidence regarding whether a transfer to DOC is warranted by ‘clear and convincing evidence,’ that the juvenile subject to transfer to DOC is a danger to himself or herself or others or cannot be safely held under the supervision of DCF,” Judge Thomas Bishop wrote for the court.
     Since Angel turns 18 this year, Bishop added that the court is “unable to provide her with any practical relief from the court’s transfer order.”
     A representative for the American Civil Liberties Union applauded the decision.
     “For us, it was a good day,” said Dan Barrett, legal director for the ACLU of Connecticut. “As far as we’re concerned, things are better in Connecticut because of the ruling. We think it’s a very serious thing when the state wished to send a child to adult prison. Any measure that makes that transfer to adult prison more difficult is a good thing.”
     The ACLU-CT says the law used to transfer Angel has only been applied twice in about 40 years. Though used rarely, the law still deserves scrutiny, Barrett said.
     “Even if DCF hasn’t used this statute very much, we want to make sure it’s a difficult and careful analysis before sending a child to adult prison,” he said.
     Senior assistant public defender James Connolly, who represented Angel R., did not respond to a request for comment.
     A spokesperson from the DCF also did not return a request for comment.

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