A 16-year-old transgender girl detained without criminal charges at an adult women’s prison in Connecticut for the past two months has been accepted into a private treatment center for youths in Massachusetts, the top child welfare official in Connecticut said Thursday.
Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz said she expects the girl to be brought to the treatment center within the next two weeks. Officials didn’t disclose the center’s name or location. Katz said the relocation is tentative, because the girl has the right to ask for a hearing if she objects.
The teen, who was born a boy but identifies as a girl, has suffered sexual abuse and other trauma and has a range of mental health needs, according to her lawyer, Aaron Romano. He said he was worried her mental health problems were getting worse because she has been detained in what he called solitary confinement, which DCF officials denied.
A state judge in April ordered the girl transferred from DCF custody to Department of Correction custody, because DCF officials said she was too violent for them to handle.
The teen, known only as Jane Doe in court documents, has supporters across the country including civil liberties activists who have been calling for her to be moved to a facility that can better meet her needs. About 15,900 people have signed a Change.org petition protesting her imprisonment at York Correctional Institution in Niantic.
Katz’s announcement came a day after a federal judge in Hartford set a June 16 hearing on whether to issue an injunction barring state officials from continuing to detain the girl in an adult prison. DCF officials said they have been looking for a better treatment location since before the girl was sent to the prison.
Katz said the treatment center that has accepted the girl has staff trained in meeting the needs of transgender youths. She said the center is secure and the program’s goal is to teach the youths how to control their behaviors.
"This transition will allow her to get the treatment she needs and begin the process of healing," Katz said in a statement. "I hope this can eventually lead to successful re-integration into a family and community as well as a transition to a healthy adulthood."
Romano, the girl’s lawyer, said he welcomed an agreement to move her out of prison, but until it is finalized he will continue to prepare for the June 16 court hearing.
Sandra Staub, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said she couldn’t comment on the proposed relocation of the girl to Massachusetts because she didn’t have all the details.
"But we can’t think of many places that would be worse for this child than where she is right now, an adult prison," Staub said. "DCF should never have asked to put her there and should not leave her there for even one more day."