On April 25, more than 50 people rallied outside the Connecticut Department of Children and Families headquarters in Hartford to demand justice for a transgender 16-year-old girl who has been held in York Correctional Center, an adult prison, since April 8. “Jane Doe,” as she is known because she is a minor, has not been charged with any crime and is being held in near-solitary conditions for 22-23 hours a day.
In a public letter and a court affidavit, Jane Doe outlined a history and pattern of abuse at the hands of DCF workers and the families with which DCF had placed her. Read previous coverage on Liberation News.
Chanting “DCF! DOC! Jane Doe must go free!” “Katz, you lied to me! Prison isn’t therapy!” and “Victim Blaming? We Say No! We want justice for Jane Doe!” the rally called out the victim blaming that Joette Katz, the Commissioner of DCF, has engaged in since the story got out. On the morning of April 25, hours before the rally, Katz visited Jane Doe in prison and told Doe that she would stay at York until she “proves herself,” but provided no information about what goals or steps Doe would have to take.
Activists, clergy and community members from a number of causes together addressed the multitude of issues in this case, including oppression of women and LGBTQ people, systemic racism, poverty and lack of necessary funding for state programs.
A former corrections officer who found out about the protest from friends said she came out because she couldn’t stand not doing anything about the injustice: “Joette Katz need to be fired. She should never ever be allowed to do this anybody else under any circumstances. It’s wrong. Katz is the criminal. They need to trade places.”
Rally chair and member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation Al Riccio read from a public statement by Jane Doe: “I want people to understand who I am, what my life has been like and how I ended up where I am. I have survived what would have destroyed most people and I’m not going to let it destroy me. I can’t change what has happened in the past but I can build a future just like every other 16 year old.” Her letter ends, “We have all made mistakes but I don’t deserve this.”
Barbara Fair, a member of the group My Brother’s Keeper, said, “What we need to do is challenge the DCF system of care so that they get to all children and all families and don’t let Jane Doe be the last time that we come out and fight against the system that oppresses and destroys children and families.”
Aaron Romano, the lawyer representing Doe, came to the rally directly from negotiations with DCF. “It’s an absolute tragedy. DCF has abandoned their children. Their mandate is to take care of kids. This is a victim. DCF and Commissioner Katz, when she tried to move this child, this young girl, to a male facility, denigrated her gender identity… [Katz] committed a human rights abuse.”
Organizers pledged to continue to the fight to get justice for Jane Doe, including appropriate placement and treatment, and abolition of the law allowing minors in DCF care to be placed in adult prisons.
A solidarity action was held in New York City outside the Administration for Children’s Services office at the same time. Speaking out against transphobia and the illegal incarceration of Jane Doe, protesters reacted with outrage to the news of Katz's threats against her. A march then proceeded to City Hall, where Mayor Bill De Blasio was spotted. Everything Transgender NYC, the Anti-Violence Project, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and WORD, among others, took part in the action.
Ben Becker contributed to this report.