It's been more than a month since a Connecticut judge approved a request from the state's Department of Children and Families, sending a 16-year-old transgender girl to prison -- indefinitely and without her being brought up on charges. On Saturday, for the second time since this ordeal began, protesters will rally in support of the teenage detainee.
Jane Doe, as she's being referred to by the media, has spent the vast majority of her life in and out of the Connecticut DCF's care, encountering startling levels of abuse at every turn.
"While in DCF custody, I have suffered immensely," Doe said in court documents filed last month. "I feel that DCF has failed to protect me from harm, and I am now thrown into prison because they have refused to help me."
Doe goes on to recount the many challenges she'd endured over the past decade. She was raped, physically assaulted, and emotionally tormented. She alleges that several DCF staff members forced her to have sex with them, and she details her experience of being forced into the world of survival sex work after being sent to live with her abusive, drug-addicted mother at age 15.
Activist Al Riccio has been one of Doe's most vocal supporters, taking a lead role in organizing these rallies, explains why he's chosen this plan of action.
"It's important that we return to the DCF headquarters and march to the capitol in Connecticut to show both [DCF] Commissioner [Joelle] Katz and Governor [Dan] Malloy that we as a community are not retreating from this fight," Riccio tells The Advocate. "We're also organizing to show Malloy that although he has transferred Jane to a different facility -- a cottage at the York Correctional -- we know she's still incarcerated and is not getting the mental health treatment and care she needs. She's now been in prison for just about two months, and we're not going anywhere until the state meets our demands to find her safe and humane placement.
"We also need to keep bringing attention to the fact that Jane would not be imprisoned if not for her status as a trans woman and a person of color. Plenty of cisgender girls under DCF care assault DCF workers and 'act out,' but none of them are imprisoned without criminal charges and threatened to be sent to a male prison. It's impossible to imagine the state of Connecticut doing this to a white, cisgender 16-year-old."
In an interview with NPR, Katz defended her decision to request that Doe be removed from DCF custody and placed in an adult correctional facility.
"She engaged in some of her typical, I hate to say typical, but some behaviors," Katz told NPR. "But the one that really was the final straw, frankly, was the one that occurred at the end of January."
According to Katz, in January, while being housed in a Massachusetts facility, Doe injured a staff member during a physical altercation. Details of the fight remain somewhat unclear, but that incident was the tipping point for Katz and the DCF.
Earlier this week, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Burton A. Kaplan issued a 22-page memorandum in support of the state's decision to move Doe to an adult facility.
In a letter to Governor Malloy, Doe wrote, "[Katz] has said a lot of things about me that aren't true. She was on TV telling people I blinded someone and broke their jaw. That was a lie. She said that she never asked that I go to Manson. That was a lie. She told everyone that I should be going to that new girls program at Riverview. That was a lie. Now she is telling people she is trying to get me out of here, but nothing is happening. I hear people talking, and they are saying that I am going to be here until I'm 18. I am done with DCF. They just want to make up stuff about me so that everyone thinks I am some kind of wild animal. Is it OK for them to do this? To just lie about me and throw me in prison and forget about me?"
Doe closed her letter to Malloy with a cry for help, writing, "It seems like you're my last chance to get out of here. Don't forget about me. I can't take another month of this."
The rally begins at DCF headquarters, located at 505 Hudson St., in Hartford, at 11 a.m. Saturday and will consist of a march to the state Capitol building, speakers from the trans and gender-nonconforming community, and an open mike speak-out.