Proposed Connecticut budget keeps juvenile probation program with Judicial Department [NHRegister]

April 28, 2015

Article as it appeared in the New Haven Register

HARTFORD >> A transfer of juvenile and adult probation programs run by the highly regarded Court Support Services Division in the Judicial Department has been rejected by the Appropriations Committee, which released its proposed budget Monday.

The committee, of which Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford and Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, are co-chairwomen, added or restored between $285 million and $321 million per year in total cuts and new programs for the biennium over what Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had submitted to lawmakers.

On the probation programs, Malloy wanted to send 755 positions and $248.6 million to the Department of Children and Families to handle probation supervision for juveniles who at the time of their offenses were 17 or younger.

He also would have reassigned 753 positions and $272.3 million for adult probation services from CSSD to the Department of Correction.

The administration said this would achieve efficiencies in the delivery of those services, but that was rejected by professionals in the field and it brought an immediate rare public objection from Chief Justice Chase T. Roberts.

“Our concern is that we have seen no evidence substantiating how this proposal will result in greater efficiencies or better outcomes in the criminal justice system, the juvenile justice system or the family court system,” Rogers wrote earlier this year, in a statement on the state website.

Abby Anderson, executive director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, said the decision by the Appropriations Committee was a good one.

“The changes were not in the best interest of kids, their families or public safety,” Anderson said.

She said CSSD has been doing a excellent job in its community-cased programs where it oversees 97 percent of young offenders in the justice system, as opposed to the 3 percent under DCF.

Anderson said CSSD’s data-driven programs have helped reduce the number of incarcerated youths and saved the state money.

The proposal by the administration “was fixing a problem that didn’t exist,” Anderson said.

The CSSD model was praised by the Justice Policy Institute in 2013 which found that Connecticut had, more than any other state, taken the increasing awareness of adolescent development and used it to transform its juvenile justice system.

Critics of DCF also found the proposal puzzling.

“It would transfer control over a vulnerable population of children to the executive branch of state government, and into the hands of an agency already struggling to meet the needs of children under its watch,” state Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, Senate minority leader, wrote earlier this year in an op-ed in the Hartford Courant.

The committee also disagreed with the administration that wanted to transfer the 99 Youth Service Bureaus serving 126 towns from the state Department of Education to DCF.

The Democratically controlled Appropriations Committee, which passed its proposed budget in a 33-24 vote along party lines, reasoned that long term debt associated with teacher retirements, state employees retirements and post-employment benefits did not need to be counted against the spending cap.