Op-ed: An open letter to DCF Commissioner Katz
Dear Commissioner Katz,
I am distressed by your recently published letters and statements defending the solitary confinement incarceration of 16-year-old Jane Doe at York, an adult prison. I am surprised that you would make such derogatory and negative comments about any child — especially one who is committed to [the Department of Children and Families]. You are the commissioner of the agency entrusted with protecting children.
The injustice of this incarceration is clear. Ms. Doe has not been convicted of any crime and has reportedly been the victim of abuse by her caregivers. Punishing Ms. Doe for her reactive behaviors will not help.
Commissioner Katz, I am troubled with the negative and demeaning aspects of your description of Ms. Doe. It is almost as though you blame her for being a victim, and blame her for DCF’s inability to find appropriate services and an appropriate placement for her, even though, by your own report, she has been known to DCF since at least age 12. I do not detect hope, or compassion, or any positive regard for Ms. Doe in your descriptions.
Children need champions, especially children who have lost their family connections. Who is Ms. Doe’s champion? Who will help her find her gifts and become an accomplished adult? Where will she go to school? Will DCF encourage her to stay in school and support her while she attends college? What is your hope for Ms. Doe other than a prison cell at York?
Commissioner Katz, if Ms. Doe were your child, what would you hope for her? How would you expect her caregivers to support her? How would you hope that DCF respond?
Gary Brown is a Hamden resident.
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