Sen. Fazio, law enforcement push for “accountability” in CT juvenile justice system

November 6, 2021

CT police officials call for juvenile system changes at forum: ‘We hope it doesn’t take a tragedy’

By Grace Duffield
New Canaan Advertiser
Updated: Nov. 5, 2021


State Sen. Ryan Fazio hosted a forum with law enforcement officials Wednesday about desired changes to the juvenile rehabilitation system.



NEW CANAAN — It was apocryphal: Stamford Police Chief Timothy Shaw recounted the story of a mother who allegedly told law enforcement her 14-year-old son was going to kill someone.

Six months later, Shaw said, he did.

“If he was put in a place prior to and got the resources he needed,” Shaw told the audience at a New Canaan Town Hall forum, then he could have been put “on a different path.”

Shaw and Paul J. Ferencek, the state’s attorney for the Stamford/Norwalk judicial district, on Wednesday made the case for a new juvenile therapeutic and detention facility in Connecticut.

The present juvenile system works for most of the state’s young criminals, they said, but law enforcement officials believe more is needed for those the system does not help.

And while not accusing juveniles of being particularly vicious, Shaw said he has seen an uptick in assaults and murders.

In past years, Stamford Police logged two or three homicides a year, he said. In 2019, there were five; in 2020, six; and this year, there have been five.

Three incidents over the past few years have involved young teens, he said, with children ages 14, 15 and 16 involved in separate homicides.

“There has to be a place to get the help they need,” Shaw said. “We don’t want to incarcerate. That is not why we are here. That is not something we believe in.”

Ferencek said the type of facility that would be ideal for juveniles does not exist in Connecticut.

He thinks the state “should invest in centers that are short of being a jail, where it is mandatory that they stay there and are really therapeutic in nature. We don’t have it unfortunately,” he said. “It is an issue of money.”

He said the present system only allows that juveniles be kept for up to 30 months in various facilities that are not designed for the purpose of therapeutic rehabilitation.

Shaw said he believes the justice system should rely on specialists to determine “how much time this person needs before they can be a value to society.”

“We hope it doesn’t take a tragedy” for the state to do something, he added.

New Canaan Chief Leon Krolikowski, who has been reaching out to legislators to change laws surrounding youth crime, argued that the rise in crime is “related to no accountability, or very little, for repeat offenders.”

If legislators can “push through police accountability in a few months, you can push through juvenile accountability in a similar amount of time,” he said.

The speakers emphasized that the goal is not only to save victims, but to save the offenders as well.

Krolikowski said he supports therapeutic interventions first.

“There should be progressive state resources put in place based on the crime committed and each juvenile’s circumstances,” he said on Thursday.

“Certainly repeat juvenile offenders should be placed on intensive state supervision, which could include being GPS monitored, getting behavioral and/or substance use help and educational support,” he said. The small percentage of juveniles that commit the most violent offenses, he said, such as murders, shootings, armed robberies and sexual assaults, “may need to be in a juvenile facility to both protect and help the juvenile.”

Greenwich Police Chief Jim Heavey said even though his town has a very comprehensive plan for juveniles who have committed crimes, he only has jurisdiction over criminals who live in Greenwich. Of the crimes committed in Greenwich, 67 percent he attributed to “commuters” — who come from out of town, he said.

Heavey touted a juvenile review board, diversionary programs including a board of residents with expertise in various areas to help with restorative justice and restitution. The group works with support agencies in town, including the school system.

“We have a very high success rate,” he said.

Balancing things like accountability and transparency with the proactiveness of policing” are a goal, forum moderator state Sen. Ryan Fazio said. 

The justice system must balance “mercy and compassion and rehabilitation with accountability and deterrents.”