Just over two months after the transgender youth known to media outlets and her supporters as “Jane Doe” was placed in solitary confinement-for the second time-she has fled Connecticut DCF custody in the latest chapter of a saga that has been marked by her allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of Department staff and others entrusted with caring for her since she was 5, and the public outrage regarding her transfer to a prison several months ago, despite the absence of criminal charges.
It happened on Tuesday, when Doe-who was being kept in solitary at the Juvenile Training School for Boys in Middletown-was brought her first session at an unspecified therapeutic program, according to The Associated Press, which first broke the news.
Justice for Jane, the nationwide support group that has been campaigning on Doe’s behalf since her April transfer from DCF custody to the York Correctional facility in Niantic, is planning to rally outside of the Department’s headquarters in Hartford on September 27 in an attempt to once again draw attention to an issue that has not gotten as much attention as before over the course of recent months. They might not need much help with getting that now.
“Right now, Justice For Jane is concerned with Jane’s well being and safety, which DCF and DOC have never been able to guarantee,” says Justice for Jane activist Chris Garaffa. “If something happens to Jane now, the blame still lies with the DCF employees who took part in and enabled her abuse, including Commissioner Katz, as well as Governor Malloy. DCF had ample opportunity to place Jane with a caring family and instead treated her like a criminal.”
That’s the short version.
The 16-year old has no formal criminal charges levied against her, but an alleged history of assaultive outbursts that DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said made her too dangerous to be placed at a new DCF lockup facility in Middletown for girls.
But Doe’s own allegations against DCF and others-detailed in an affidavit that begins when she is taken from her mother, a drug addict, when she’s 5-is far more damning if true. Doe’s story is one stained with multiple incidents of rape, assault, and other abuses not just at the hands of DCF workers, but family members the Department placed her with.
Flashback to June 24. Attorney Aaron Romano can see a light at the end of Doe’s long tunnel-the latest stretch being the 77 days she spent in isolation at York, where she and her advocates say a guard watched her constantly, even as she showered and used the bathroom. She is expected to be transferred from there any day now.
“We’re told Jane will be transferred today,” a post by Justice for Jane on its Facebook page reads. “We were told that yesterday. Keep the pressure up!”
They were told that the day before, and the day before that. In fact, June 20-the Friday before-was the date originally slated for Doe’s transfer. The important thing for Doe, Romano, and her supporters is where she’s going-as of now it’s an undisclosed facility in Massachusetts. She’ll have a more “therapeutic” environment with psychiatric services and she won’t be in isolation, according to Romano.
It won’t be a long term solution, but a step forward. If Doe can get the help she needs, the next step would be to find a “loving” foster family for her while establishing a network of support she can turn to when her time with DCF expires at age 18, Romano says.
A month later, Doe is sitting in an isolation cell at the boys unit of the Juvenile Training School in Middletown-a far cry from the hopes she, her attorney, and supporters had before her transfer. This is similar to what she and her team feared might happen when Katz first made the move to no longer house her at a DCF facility and it was implied that she could end up a Manson Correctional, a men’s prison.
If you ask Aaron Romano, her current situation is not much different.
“The training school is a jail,” Romano said over the phone. “I was there [visiting Doe]. The cells are no different than an isolation cell in a maximum security prison. The window is a small slit in the wall-maybe 4 inches wide and 1 foot tall-and that’s her window to the outside world. It’s horrible. This is not a therapeutic setting.”
What happened between Doe’s late June exit from York and July 12, when it was first reported that she had been transferred from the neighboring girls’ facility that she was rerouted to at the last minute, is where some of the details get foggy.
The only thing standing between her and going out of state was the final word from Massachusetts Department of Mental Health-Connecticut had already given its blessing, Romano said before Doe’s move from York.
But at 11 a.m. on June 24, Doe was taken to the Juvenile Training School’s Pueblo Unit for girls-a move Romano and Justice for Jane activists considered a partial victory that would serve as a stepping stone toward something better.
But Doe is moving a boulder up hill, and on July 12, it rolled back down.
DCF’s allegation is that Doe assaulted a resident and staff member and “destroyed state property”. They declined to disclose specifics.
Romano has not been able to say much as well, except that the incident may have been provoked by discriminatory treatment toward Doe due to her gender identity.
“We’re seeing a child who has her issues,” Romano said. “Compound that with her struggle, not on the inside-she knows who she is-but with the outside world. Compound that with drug addicted parents, lack of services and education opportunities, and poverty issues.”
Optimism aside in the face of the latest reality, Romano is left to wonder what would have happened if Doe had ended up where she and her team originally intended.
“They did not put her in Massachusetts a place that would’ve been better for her,” he said. “It was not good for her, and this is what happens. If you put a child in an improper place, and they lash out, nobody says that it’s an improper placement, they just see her acting out.”
And now, she has broken out.
Both DCF and Romano did not return requests for comment today.