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They call her Jane Doe, an un-named transgender girl of color. Jane first rose to national attention in the spring of this year, when she was kicked out of a Connecticut Department of Children and Families facility, after allegedly attacking one of the staff members. Jane was in the facility because her previous legal guardians had seriously physically abused her, leaving her traumatized.
Her father has been in jail for years, and her mother is reportedly heavily addicted to many drugs, including crack and heroin. When DCF previously released Jane back into her mother’s custody, she was reportedly forced into sex work simply to survive. She also alleges that DCF staff members themselves have abused her in the past.
Because the DCF felt it had no way to properly care for Jane followed the alleged assault, they had her temporarily transferred to an adult woman’s prison (despite a lack of criminal charges). She was moved to a mental health facility and reportedly kept in solitary confinement for being transgender (DCF denies this claim). Then she was moved to a psychiatric facility and later a facility to house delinquent boys (because the state of Connecticut makes placement decisions based on genitalia and not identification).
Soon thereafter, she was transferred to a privately run treatment facility. Within days, in September, Jane escaped from that facility, only to be found the next day. Many questioned why she would run away, but Jane has already made a public statement about the abuse she has suffered in DCF placements previously. Since then, she has been returned to the boy’s facility and is being kept in solitary confinement regularly, despite having the charges against her dropped.
Advocates point a finger at Joette Katz, the head of DCF, for refusing to address this issue and having Jane shuffled from facility to facility instead of being placed with one of any number of families who have offered to adopt her. Katz recently fired the attorney representing Jane Doe from an advisory panel within DCF. He was allegedly terminated for arguing with the head of a youth detention facility who advocates the use of restraints at his facility, despite the panel’s unanimous agreement on the need for an outside assessment of the issue.
Jane has been the victim of systemic, ongoing abuses. In addition to the terrible emotional abuse she is currently suffering, being refused the right to present herself as the gender she identifies as, she has had a well-documented history of physical and sexual abuse. That, combined with being transgender, makes her a very high risk for suicide. She deserves support, therapy and a safe environment for healing, not solitary confinement in a facility where she is constantly in danger of being physically or sexually assaulted by the other inmates.
In theory, Connecticut has had a state law in place since 2011 that prevents discrimination against transgender people, but these are clearly not being enforced and/or implemented correctly. Jane Doe is the tip of the iceberg, a public face a serious cultural issue. Transgender people are not defined by their genitals, and they do not deserve to be treated like second-class citizens, even if they are in state custody. Thankfully, Jane has an army of supporters who are working diligently to keep her story in the media and to get her the kind of help and treatment she could actually benefit from in the long run.
Readers who want updates on the story can follow the Justice for Jane page on Facebook.
Photo Credit: Molly Crabapple via the J4J: Justice for Jane Facebook page.