Incarcerated Trans Girl Jane Doe Transferred to Boys’ Facility; #JusticeforJane Calls for Action

feature image via Justice for Jane Facebook Page


Over the weekend, the sixteen-year-old girl known as Jane Doe was secretly transferred from a psychiatric center to the Juvenile Training School, the only secure facility for delinquent boys in Connecticut.

The Juvenile Training School via the New Haven Register

The Juvenile Training School via the New Haven Register

Jane is transgender, and has faced constant abuse and discrimination by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). In April she was transferred into the custody of the Department of Corrections (DoC) and detained in an adult women’s prison, despite being a kid never charged with a crime. DCF justified her placement there saying she was “too violent for them to handle,” and got a judge to approve her transfer under an obscure Connecticut law, CT statute 17a-12. After she spent over 65 days in prison, Jane and her advocates successfully pushed for her to be transferred into the psychiatric center. The agency then transferred her to the boys’ facility with little explanation and no advance notice to her legal team. Instead, DCF Commissioner Joette Katz issued a news release, stating, “State police have been notified and we are confident they will take whatever action they deem is appropriate.”

Advocacy group Justice for Jane are organizing a response to Jane’s recent transfer, and have put out Call to Action, to call and tweet at Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and the Department of Children and Families with the hashtag #justice4jane.

A representation of Jane Doe by Molly Crabapple

A representation of Jane Doe by Molly Crabapple

Jane is not the first, nor is it likely she will be the last kid in Connecticut to be affected by this law, and she’s definitely not the only transgender kid of color to face abuse and incarceration by the DCF and foster system. The fight for Jane is incredibly important, and it’s not isolated. Jane’s abuse and incarceration are a piece of a massive system that is constantly targeting people of color and transgender people, including the kids. To fight for justice for Jane is to fight against all of these systems.


Are you following us on Facebook?

Profile photo of Maddie

Autostraddle staff writer. Copy editor. Fledgling English muffin maker. Temporary turtle parent. Zine creator. Swings enthusiast. Political human who cares a lot about healthcare and queer anti-carceral feminisms. I asked my friend to help me write this bio and they said, "Good-natured. Friend. Earth tones." Another friend said, "Flannel babe. Vacuum lover. Kind." So. Find me on Twitter or my website.

Maddie has written 94 articles for us.

18 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I’m not sure how I feel about the “representation of Jane Doe” picture. Is this by someone who actually knows her? Or are we relying on people picturing her as a conventionally attractive, mostly-white-looking teenage girl to make her worth caring about?

    • Thumb up 3

      Please log in to vote

      Thanks for asking! Jane has asked her supporters to circulate this picture. This is from the Justice for Jane facebook page (on June 16th):

      Jane asked her supporters to share this representation of her so you can see her as the person that those of us who know her best do: a teenager who wants to smile with friends, shop for prom dresses with Janet Mock, and have a family to love her.

      She wants you to see her this way because today is the 69th day that she has been in prison at an adult facility despite never having been charged with a crime or convicted of one.

  2. Thumb up 1

    Please log in to vote

    Dave Davis from NPR’s Fresh Air did a great interview on the subject of juvenile incarceration. What I found most problematic is that when there are no mental health services for a non-violent offender, they get sent to a correctional facility, because it’s thought that at least there will be services there. Even though their crimes (and sometime complete lack of crimes) do not merit that sort of sentencing. However most times, there are no mental health services in the correctional facilities either.
    If you’re interested, you can find this interview here:
    http://www.npr.org/2014/06/04/318801651/burning-down-the-house-makes-the-case-against-juvenile-incarceration

  3. Thumb up 5

    Please log in to vote

    Thank you for continuing to cover this important story.

    Children in foster care, people of color, trans women, and people struggling with mental health issues (particularly those without the financial resources to attain proper treatment) are all at grave risk in this country, and the more marginalized groups you belong to the harder it gets. This poor girl has had to face the kind of obstacles in her life that those of us from more privileged backgrounds can barely imagine.

    It is truly horrifying that we can’t get it together enough as a society to provide Jane, and others like her, with even minimally appropriate resources. I hope that the attention this story has received means that society is beginning to grasp how fucked up this is, but I fear that this belated realization is too little, too late.

  4. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    I would really recommend you guys actually go read the court case report and not just amalgamate various tumblr sources. The teenager in question is not a delicate little flower who never hurt a fly. The court received evidence to show that she has consistently been violent and dangerous.

    Jane Doe in question is, for the practical purposes at hand, a very strong male bodied teenager with a long history of violent attacks on specifically female staff and female children. These female wards are only staffed by female adults. It is completely unreasonable to expect these already highly under resourced wards to deal with people they were never set up to deal with.

    However, it is equally entirely unreasonable to send Jane Doe to a male prison. As well as this, sending a transman to a male prison would be a sentence to constant sexual and physical assault. Shoving everyone into the same 2 types of prisons is ridiculous.

    • Thumb up 2

      Please log in to vote

      I don’t think anyone here in under the impression that Jane has never committed violent acts. Acting out is not uncommon in people who have suffered the kind of repeated trauma she’s been forced to endure. However difficult her behavior, she is still a child who needs and deserve to be properly cared for.

      It isn’t unreasonable to expect a state to have appropriate resources available for its residents, especially people like Jane who’s legal guardian is the state. Everyone charged with caring for this girl has utterly failed to do so – her parents, her extended family, and the Department of Children and Families. It is unacceptable that any child be treated this way. If there is really no mental health facility in Connecticut that can meet her needs, that is something we should be outraged about.

      • Thumb up 1

        Please log in to vote

        Thank you for this, I was going to attempt a reply, but you did far better than I would have, with english as my second language. 🙂

        I work with children. I have 10 years of counseling under my belt already. When a 12 year old child is being though to work with (in school, at its summer camp, etc.), ressources are very, very limited. They never send counselors or social workers unless the child is falling on the autism spectrum, needs super extensive medication, or there is extensive proof that the child suffers significant abuse. Key word : significant. Because tons of kids suffer “benign” abuse like verbal abuse at home, and no one is going to look into it. And I am only talking about “middle class, white, suburb kids”. When I do camp counselling in much poorer areas, it’s not rare that I deal with some kids who are still in elementary school at age 14, with a parent in prison and the other one is a drug user.

        I’m a super short woman, at 5′, some kids are taller than me. Lemme tell ya, when a huge boy decides to spit on you, push you around or threaten you, it’s going to scare you. My position never allows me to physically restrain a child, I’m there to explain the rules for Dodgeball… but when restraining becomes a necessity, there are no trained staff who can do it! A lot of kids need private social workers with them. Very few get one. Those who don’t have proper support still have to function in regular schools. Regular teachers and regular staff aren’t trained to work with violent kids, yet we expect them to somehow magically do it. They just have to.

        And yet, I’m *still* not talking about actual “children of the state”, who have spent their entire lives in different foster homes, some of which are in fact abusive.

        I can’t begin to understand Jane Doe’s situation. What I do know, however, is that ressources are lacking, tragically. There aren’t enough ressources in school, at the hospital, at the local police office… it goes on. We don’t take child abuse seriously until it becomes VERY serious. Then it’s too late.

        Society fails its youth by either refusing to look into the smaller cases of abuse because there isn’t sufficient proof (child protection services don’t have enough budget / place / staff to open up folders for every reported case…), or by placing the already very, very problematic kids in inappropriate facilities.

        No prevention + hard punishment = less than ideal situation.

        We need an in between for these kids. We could avoid a criminal life for some of those kids if we looked into their safety earlier on in their life, or took the necessary measures to protect them from their caregivers, and themselves if necessary.

        Otherwise we end up failing them, by letting them become the worse they can be. It is very sad indeed.

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      I don’t think any believes that Jane is a easy child. I also very much understand that it has to be almost impossible to find a foster family for her. The state has been upfront about not being able to find a placement for her. I do think moving her into a facility designed for teenagers has to be a lot better than her previous situation. At least, she’ll have access to school.

      Personally, I’m frustrated that her lawyers don’t seem to be putting energy into finding her better options. The publicity could be used to raise funds to pay for a private therapeutic school or even a private residential mental health center.

      • Thumb up 1

        Please log in to vote

        According to the articles I’ve read, a number of people approved to care for foster children have expressed their willingness to take Jane in, but DCF has so far rejected these offers. The department may well have had legitimate reasons for doing so (clearly Jane has special needs, and not all foster parents are equipped to care for her safely), but I worry that the state isn’t actually making a good faith effort to place her with a family. It seems like living with supportive foster parents and attending outpatient treatment would be a far better option for her than living in a facility for boys (where unfortunately her risk of sexual assault is extremely high). I wish there was more of an outreach effort being made to find appropriate housing for Jane and other special needs children – people might actually be willing to help if presented with the opportunity.

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      I read the report, and at the very least was struck (positively) by the consistent use of Jane’s chosen pronouns, including a note obviously critiquing the inconsistent usage of male/female pronouns and her given/chosen names in previous documentation.

      I don’t think it’s helpful to paint the legal system as a big faceless monster intent on locking her up forever. If they wanted to do that, they could easily have refused to acknowledge her Trans* status and locked her up in the general population of a male facility, instead of keeping her separated like they have. I think the brief said that she and two guards are alone in an 18-bed ward, which is no small feat given the overcrowding in the system.

      I’m also not saying that the legal system is totally in the right. Just that this is a difficult situation, and coming off as a bunch of shrieking college students fresh from a women’s studies course is not going to do anything.

  5. Thumb up 1

    Please log in to vote

    Ok, this is the first time in this case that I think this kid being trans had much to do with it. It’s actually really frustrating, as a former foster kid, to see people completely dismiss the fact that throwing foster kids into detention centers happens ALL THE TIME. It’s not a trans issue. It’s a foster care issue, and making it just about her being trans erases the experiences of so many kids and doesn’t do much to fix the situation, because it misses the damn point.
    I think honestly, the issue becomes that the system has limited places to put a teenager of color (if she’s not black, she’d better thank her lucky stars she’s not, because in the foster system, that’d make her plight worse) with a history of behavioral issues. And then, yeah, she’s trans, and specifically MTF, because most foster homes prefer female-assigned children because they think they’re easier (physically smaller so they won’t be so tough to deal with if they’re violent, and they think they’re more subdued and not so dangerous) so that’s definitely not going to make things easier.
    But up until this point, I think the system has done much better than usual, putting her in a women’s facility instead of a men’s, giving her hormones, etc. That’s MUCH more than the system usually does, and it probably is because they don’t want to deal with a lawsuit. It doesn’t make much sense to me why they’d take her out of a women’s prison and transfer to a boys’ facility, but I do know that FTM foster kids are without thought/question put into girls’ homes. There was a kid who identified as male in my (girls’) group home, and I know of trans boys in this county that are in group homes for girls. So maybe that’s just what they usually do, or once again they’re trying to avoid a lawsuit, or something. Idk. They should do something about that. And I’m guessing all this press will make them.
    But yeah, all that to say that NOW it’s a trans issue. Before this point, it was something so many damn kids go through that everyone just ignored. And it’s almost painful to see people like Janet Mock, who has money and resources, miss the entire fucking point and picture. People need to think about the whole picture, and WHY these things happen, and what can be done to fix it. Stupid open letters aren’t going to fix it. Making it just a trans issue is NOT going to fix it. Admitting that this is a teenager with behavioral problems in a system that has very few willing, qualified homes (group or not) to take an older kid with some serious problems and support foster care reform as a whole, encourage people to become foster parents, etc, THAT’S going to change it. I mean, I don’t see Janet Mock signing up to be a foster parent, or anyone else making the biggest noise here.
    Also, I think people do need to recognize that this kid has problems, as all kids do after being in care for however long. She hasn’t been charged with a crime, no, but not just any group home or foster home or facility can take her after she’s exhibited certain behaviors. Her not having been charged with a crime is (again. it’s a theme here) beside the point.
    But, I’m hoping everybody making noise will at least cause a little bit of change in the foster care world, although probably only just for this kid, which is depressing. People just need to do some reading, I think, and learn something. They’d change the way they frame this, and maybe, I’d hope, be inspired to become foster parents for kids like Doe, and every other kid in the system.

  6. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I wish there was equal compassion shown for the black and brown girls assaulted at the hands of this violent monster. Girls of color are already thrown away by the system and no one cares about their plight. Where are the protests for them everyday? This Jane Doe is a violent person and even though Doe has a history of beating up other inmates, you all manage to ignore the violence against them even now. You all only care for this one violent person and are quite content to forget this detention center, continue to ignore the girls of color who’re abused, and only raise your voices when your pet project comes up.

    By the way, you reveal your own racism by featuring a very anglicized picture of someone who’s black. I guess Jane Doe wouldn’t mobilize the white people, mainly rich white gay men, without being illustrated like a Mila Kunis. This is an admission that if the subject of a story isn’t white or, at the very least, a facsimile of white supremacist beauty standards, you so-called social justice advocates won’t care. This is a racist, classist, and misogynistic campaign. Shame on you all.

    Next time you wonder why black women, including black lesbians like me, shun feminism, reference this story. Don’t claim intersectionality when your feminism requires that you oppress or participate in the oppression of other oppressed group(s).

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!