CPTV Debuts The Color of Justice A New Original Documentary on Inequities in Connecticut’s Juvenile Justice System

Release Date: 04/04/2013

HARTFORD, Conn. (April 4, 2013) – There’s a disturbing fact about the juvenile justice system in Connecticut and indeed across the country: the majority of juveniles confined there are youth of color. Though nationwide surveys show that young people of all races commit the same crimes with the same frequency (such as drinking alcohol, carrying weapons, using marijuana or being in a physical fight), children of color are more likely to be arrested, referred to court, and held longer in detention.

The Color of Justice – premiering Tuesday, April 16 at 8 p.m. on Connecticut Public Television with encore broadcasts that same evening at 11 p.m. and on Sunday, April 21 at 12:30 p.m. – is a new CPTV original documentary that examines the reasons behind this apparent racial bias and the efforts being made to repair the problem decision points in Connecticut’s system. The one-hour documentary interviews local judicial personnel, law enforcement, service providers, children’s advocates, parents and kids to understand the issue from all perspectives and reveal where reforms can be made.  

Brett Rayford of Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) commented on the problem, “The deeper you go into the juvenile justice system and ultimately into the criminal justice system, the browner and the darker it gets.” Christine Rapillo,  Director of Juvenile Delinquency Defense and Child Protection, remarks, “The whole system’s not racially biased, but the way we’re making the decisions and the way that policies are being imposed on people are resulting in there being mostly people of color locked up.”

In 2011, Connecticut’s Office of Policy and Management issued its report on racial bias in the juvenile justice system, what it calls Disproportionate Minority Contact, or DMC. The study looked at decision points in the system at all three stages: the police, juvenile court and delinquency commitment under DCF.

Of the eighteen decision points examined, nine of those points indicated that minority youth were being treated more harshly than white youth. For instance, police in Connecticut were 2.4 times more likely to write incident reports for Hispanic children than white children, and over three times more likely for black children. Prosecutors were more likely to transfer black juveniles to adult court. DCF confined black and Hispanic youth in secure facilities more often and for longer lengths of time than their white counterparts.

So what can be done to make Connecticut’s juvenile justice system more fair? The Color of Justice profiles successful programs such as the Effective Police Interactions with Youth patrol officer training – a class that helps officers look for evidence of bias and understand adolescent behavior in the context of their jobs. Social psychologist Jack Glaser explains how this innovative program is helping officers see minority youth in a new light. “Merely banning or prohibiting profiling is not a sufficient strategy,” Glaser noted. “What they’re looking for are interventions that help them to prevent themselves from unintentionally profiling.”

Since studies show that youth who get involved in the system tend to stay or return there, efforts are also being done to divert kids facing misdemeanor charges away from the courts and toward local Juvenile Review Boards (JRBs). Referrals to JRBs free up court and police resources for more serious crimes.

While the state continues to grapple with this issue, Connecticut’s efforts to identify and address juvenile racial bias have made it a model of DMC reduction across the country. The state has conducted three DMC assessment studies and implemented numerous recommendations from those findings. Many jurisdictions around the U.S. still struggle to gather data on the problem.

On Tuesday, April 23 at 8 p.m. (with an encore broadcast on Sunday, April 28 at 12 noon), CPTV will broadcast The Color of Justice: Roundtable, an in-studio discussion of the forces that have shaped inequities in the state’s juvenile justice system featuring local experts, community members and advocates.

The Color of Justice is a CPTV Connecting Our Communities initiative in partnership with the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee. The documentary and roundtable are supported by a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice to the State of Connecticut.

The Color of Justice is produced by Connecticut Public Television (CPTV).

Producer/Writer: Cathy Jackman

Executive Producer: Jennifer Boyd

 

About Connecticut Public Television

CPTV is a media service of the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (CPBN). It is a locally and nationally recognized producer and presenter of quality public television programming, including original documentaries, public affairs shows and educational programming. CPTV has built a reputation as a leader in children’s programming, including playing an historic role in bringing Barney & Friends™, Bob the Builder™ and Thomas & Friends™ to public television. The station offers 11.5 hours of positive, nurturing children’s programs each weekday, reaching 50,000 to 70,000 households daily. The Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network also includes WNPR, an affiliate of National Public Radio, Public Radio International and American Public Media. WNPR serves 260,000 listeners weekly in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island with news and information. Its award-winning local programming includes The Faith Middleton Show, The Colin McEnroe Show and Where We Live. CPBN also includes two affiliate channels: CPTV4U, a 24/7 television channel featuring award-winning drama, news and talk programming, concert performances, independent films, nature shows, British comedy and more; and CPTV Sports, Connecticut’s only 24-hour local sports network, covering statewide high school, college, semi-professional and professional sports. For more information, visit cptv.org.

 

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