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RELEASE: Community Members, Parents, Groups, Educators, and Local Elected Officials Hold Press Conference in Middletown to Keep Youth Prison Closed

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, February 27th, 2023

Contact:  

Yonah Zeitz, yonah@katalcenter.org | (347) 201-2768

Follow on Twitter @KatalCenter | #CutShutInvestCT

 #CutShutInvestCT Campaign –  Community Members, Parents, Groups, Educators – and Local Elected Officials Hold Press Conference in Middletown to Keep Youth Prison Closed

With a Long, Notorious History, the Connecticut Juvenile Training School Must be Demolished, Not Repurposed into a Charter School

Middletown, CT— Today, community members, parents, groups, educators, and local elected officials gathered outside of the closed-Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS), a youth prison, to demand that it remains closed and ultimately demolished. Right now, the State Board of Education is reviewing an application for the establishment of a charter for Capital Preparatory Middletown Charter School to be opened at the now-closed Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS).  CJTS has a documented and notorious history of neglect and abuse of young people, ranging from the use of chemical agents, to excessive restraint, and solitary confinement.

Local Middletown residents have raised alarms that the process to reopen CTJS as a charter school has been riddled with secrecy and a lack of community involvement. Due to community demands, Capital Prep announced over the weekend they will be removing CJTS from their charter school application. Community groups and parents demand that CJTS be formally removed from the application, and for the youth prison to be demolished. 

At the press conference, parents and Middletown residents shared the urgent need to increase funding for education and community-based programs that will truly keep the community safe. As Gov. Lamont and the legislature are in the midst of finalizing Connecticut’s biennial budget, it is imperative that the state make substantial investments in communities, not jails and prisons. With a history of abuse and neglect, closed jails and prisons – including CTJS — should be bulldozed, not reopened. It is time to invest in true public safety: housing, healthcare, education, and jobs.

Statements from Katal members, parents, educators, community groups, and local elected officials:

Kenyatta Muzzanni, Director of Organizing at the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “For the 3rd year in a row, state officials have tried to re-open the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, a closed youth prison. This time, the State Board of Education would have been happy putting poor, Black, and brown young people in a former prison to receive an education. Enough is enough. While Capital Prep says that they are rescinding their application to put a school in the former prison, and we’re calling on the State Board of Education to reject their proposal outright. To even suggest that young people be educated in a prison is reprehensible. We’re also demanding that Governor Lamont demolish CJTS once and for all, so no further harm can be done to anyone in that facility. The Governor needs to invest in real public safety, which includes housing, health care, education, jobs, and more.”

Diana Martinez, Associate Director, Jewett Center for Community Partnerships at Wesleyan University and Parent, said: “Any Charter that would even think of proposing a school at this prison doesn’t understand our community or our kids. Capital Prep hasn’t earned community trust and cannot be entrusted with public funds. The State BOE must vote NO on this proposal. And the state has to demolish this prison to make sure it’s never proposed for children again.”

Makenzi Hurtado, Vice President of the State Vocational Federation of Teachers, said: “I’m here today demanding that CJTS be demolished, and the State Board of Education vote NO to the Capital Prep Charter School application. Even the suggestion that a youth prison could be used as a school is a disgrace. This building needs to be demolished, so that the trauma it has caused children and this community can be demolished forever.  There is a better way to improve communities of color – by funding public education and investing in children who want to stay in their communities. Technical schools, like Vinal, prepare students for the future, and we need to make the state continue to fund all of our kids, not some.”

Lisa Loomis, Educator and former Board of Education member, said: “I’m here to call on the State Board of Education to reject the charter application to put a school in a prison in their meeting on March 1st. The Middletown community just learned of this proposal 2 weeks ago, with no time to consider its ramifications on our district schools. Our community needs extra funding for our current public schools, and the BOE should spend extra money to make our public schools better – not a charter school that will only serve a handful of kids. The BOE needs to reject the proposal to put a charter school in a prison, and invest further in our public schools in Middletown.” 

Daniel Long, Middletown Parent & Research Scientist at the UConn School of Education, said: “There are better models in the State of Connecticut to improve the performance of Black and Latino students than to put a charter school in a prison. The majority of school districts and charter schools in the state of Connecticut have better performance among Black Students than the Capital Preparatory Harbor School District. As an example, Capital Prep Harbor would not solve Middletown’s problem with Black/White disparities (with suspension rates of 16% vs. 4%). Capital Prep also serves fewer English Learner (EL) and special education students than the surrounding community, something we need in Middletown. Capital Prep Harbor only selectively serves students of color, and does not adequately serve special education students. In sum, by most measures, Capital Prep has either average or below average academic performance and discipline rates. Middletown’s Black and Latino students (and all students) deserve better. We call on the State BOE to reject the proposal to put a school in a prison, and call on the state to invest more resources for public education.” 

Kayla Penza, Student at Wesleyan University and Volunteer at the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “It’s deplorable that a youth prison would even be considered to house a school. I major in Education and Psychology, and I know that correctional settings have damaging impacts on children. CJTS needs to be shut down for good, and the state should invest in more resources for public education, rather than charter schools.”

Serena Murdoch, Student at Wesleyan and Volunteer at the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “We’re here to demand that CJTS be completely demolished. As long as the building exists, there is a risk of it being re-opened to further oppress children, especially Black and brown children. This is a site of trauma, and needs to be closed for good. Governor Lamont has that authority and we call on him to demolish CJTS and invest in our communities.”

Lorenzo Jones, Co-Executive Director of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: CJTS is a youth prison that has caused tremendous harm, just as Long Lane did. Today there are thousands of people who survived these youth prisons and bear the scars. Why hasn’t this facility been razed to the ground?  To suggest that it be re-opened to create a charter school is reprehensible. Connecticut should be closing more prisons, not re-opening them as schools. CJTS is an inappropriate and unacceptable place for human beings, especially children. CJTS must be permanently destroyed – not held in reserve to re-open as a school or migrant youth detention center. 

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