Troubled city kids will be farther from their support networks when they land in jail, as the state goes through with a slated closure of New Haven’s juvenile detention center on Whalley Avenue.
Though the state avoided the dreaded Plan B budget when state workers approved a labor concessions package last week, the state judicial branch is moving forward with a plan to save $3 million by closing the facility.
The dilapidated jail at 239 Whalley Ave. houses an average of 20 to 24 kids. Those kids will be sent to Bridgeport’s facility. The adjacent juvenile courthouse and adult jail will remain open, according to the plan.
Workers will keep their jobs, which will be consolidated at the Hartford and Bridgeport jails. But New Haven families will now have to travel to Bridgeport to visit their kids, which will cause a strain on families, pointed out New Haven state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield.
“You don’t want to move them away from the supports that they know,” said Holder-Winfield. He said taking kids away from their support network exposes them to the risk of becoming a lifelong recidivist and prisoner.
“Making a cut like that is not something you want to do,” Holder-Winfield said. He said “if I had my way, I wouldn’t close it,” but he declined to come out in opposition of the move. He said he recognizes that the state needs the savings.
New Haven state Rep. Pat Dillon struck a similar tone: She said she’s concerned about the impact on families, but she needs more information before deciding whether the closure makes sense.
“I’m concerned about removing young people from their families,” said Dillon. One of the bigger problems with the justice system, she said, is that jails are filled with people who are locked up awaiting trial. Most of the kids at the Whalley Avenue jail are there for pre-trial cases, according to state officials. She said the state needs to think of a way to not just relocate New Haven kids to Bridgeport, but to assess their flight risk and determine if they really need to be locked up.
It’s not clear at this point how much input legislators will have on the judicial cuts. Malloy has increased power to make the cuts without approval by the General Assembly. State legislators, however, have discussed returning to session to hold hearings before the Appropriations Committee on proposed cuts.