A picture of Senator Christopher Murphy
Christopher M.
Democrat CT

About Sen. Christopher
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    by Senator Christopher Murphy

    Posted on 2013-12-20

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    MURPHY. Madam President, as a longtime advocate for youth in the juvenile justice system during my time in the Connecticut State Legislature and in Congress, I congratulate my home State of Connecticut on new evidence that its major juvenile justice reforms over the past 10 years have been a resounding success. These reforms are based on the principle that children are fundamentally different from adults, and they should not be criminalized just like adult offenders. While other States have begun to recognize this principle and put it into practice, my home State has led the way. I am proud to note that Connecticut has achieved the largest reduction in its confinement of minors of any state in the United States over the last decade.

    Like many other States, Connecticut adopted tough-on-crime policies that drastically increased the number of children locked up through its juvenile court system in the 1990s and early 2000s. But in the mid- 2000s, the State recognized that these policies were ineffective, costly, and worst of all, ended up harming children more than helping them. Connecticut began to reform its juvenile system, passing a law in 2005 that prohibited the detention of youth for violating a court order in any status offense case.

    Then, in 2007, Connecticut passed Raise the Age, a law that has ended the prosecution of most 16- and 17-year-old teenagers in the adult criminal system and returned them to the juvenile system where they belong. Not an easy victory, Raise the Age took more than a decade of efforts by children and families, youth advocates, and State legislators to pass and fully implement.

    Together with other State reforms, the status offense change and Raise the Age have led Connecticut to cut its rate of juvenile incarceration by 60 percent between 2001 and 2011. This drop-- documented in a report by the National Juvenile Justice Network and the Texas Public Policy Foundation entitled ``The Comeback and Coming-from- Behind States: An Update on Youth Incarceration in the United States'' and released just this week--is the largest in the Nation. More than any other State, Connecticut has succeeded in locking up fewer children and turning to more effective policies instead, such as relying increasingly on community-based treatment and cutting back on law enforcement referrals for school discipline issues.

    One of the key architects of the Raise the Age effort in Connecticut was Liz Ryan, a nationally known and leading juvenile justice advocate. Liz is the president and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice, an organization she founded in 2005, around the same time that advocates in Connecticut first formed the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, CTJJA. Liz consulted with the founders of CTJJA to mobilize the Raise the Age campaign, and our State was one of the first to receive her expertise and support.

    Throughout her career, Liz has worked tirelessly to build and strengthen the juvenile justice field by guiding and supporting other advocates and organizations. She serves on the National Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Coalition, cochairs the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaign, and serves on the working groups for the National Girls Institute and the National Center for Youth in Custody. Along with these advocacy organizations, Liz has worked closely with us in Congress to raise the profile of juvenile justice issues and push for greater reform.

    Unfortunately for the many who have worked with Liz over the years, she is now stepping down from her current role. While she is irreplaceable and will certainly remain involved in the advocacy field, I congratulate her on the work she has accomplished over the course of several decades. On behalf of those of us in Connecticut, I also thank Liz for her commitment to our State's reform efforts. As was said best by the director of CTJJA, Abby Anderson, ``If movements have best friends, Liz is the best friend of the Connecticut juvenile justice reform movement.'' Connecticut's success in improving how it treats its youth is an example for the rest of the country. More and more evidence shows that my home State should be a model for other States as they look to reduce costs and improve outcomes for children. I will continue to highlight Connecticut's success and to expand its best practices at the Federal level so that we can help support other States make these same commonsense and humane reforms. ____________________

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