Juvenile Justice Panel Addresses Root Causes & Prevention of Youth Crime

FAIRFIELD, CT – State Representative Jennifer Leeper (D-Fairfield, Southport) concluded a three-part juvenile justice panel series on Wednesday night April 6 with a conversation on the root causes that lead youth to become involved in crime and the solutions that are proven effective in preventing crime.

The panel featured Brian McLaughlin, a Fairfield resident with 20 years of experience in the Connecticut Judicial Branch who now serves as a Policy Specialist at the Crime and Justice Institute, to share insight on the science of adolescent brain development, the impacts of childhood trauma and the risk factors that propel youth toward criminal behavior. Jacquelyn Santiago Nazari, the Chief Executive Officer of Compass Youth Collaborative, a Hartford based non-profit which provides supports and opportunities to high-risk youth, discussed proven effective intervention methods which are based in cognitive behavioral theory.

The previous panels in the juvenile justice series explored the state of juvenile justice in Connecticut and the gaps and disconnects that law enforcement are experiencing. These conversations brought together a wide group of stakeholders to bring forth ideas and solutions to improve the response to juvenile crime at the community and state level.

"I am thankful to Brian and Jacquelyn for taking part in this conversation to share their insights and to those who joined to ask questions and get involved in this important work. In crafting meaningful policy solutions to address juvenile crime, it is critically important that we consider how our systems can effectively engage with youth," said Rep. Leeper. "While Connecticut stands as a model in reducing crime, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. The Connecticut General Assembly is currently working on a bipartisan level to pass legislation that will address some of the challenges law enforcement face as well as invests in community-based programs to reduce recidivism. It is through these conversations with stakeholders that we are able to craft long-term policy solutions to enhance public safety while also investing in people."

"I want to thank Rep. Leeper for continuing this series on issues in Juvenile Justice. These panels are a way for individuals who don't have a lot of exposure to the Juvenile Justice system to learn about the pressing issues of today in a politically neutral environment. New research on adolescent brain development, trauma, and risk continue to guide policy. Programs like Compass Youth address these issues directly with members of their communities," said Brian McLaughlin, Policy Specialist at The Crime and Justice Institute. 

"Thank you Rep. Leeper for addressing the issues on Juvenile Justice. Investments in prevention are key to ensuring youth are connected to positive social networks and a caring adult. Brain studies show us that the brain does not fully develop until age 25. Therefore, resources are critical to the development of executive functions.  Appropriate intervention is critical for youth impacted by poverty, lack of quality education, violence, and poor opportunity. Investments in evidence-based practice including the consistency of credible messengers, Cognitive Behavioral Theory, and assessment of risks can be elements that transform our juvenile justice system. We are all looking for proven methods that lead youth towards productive lives and contribute positively to our communities," said Jacquelyn Santiago Nazari, CEO of Compass Youth Collaborative. 

Representative Leeper is committed to passing legislation in the 2022 Legislative Session to reduce crime and invest in communities. House Bill 5417, An Act Concerning Juvenile Justice and Services and Firearms Background Checks advanced out of the Judiciary Committee and will move to the House floor for a vote.  

The full recording of the juvenile justice panel can be viewed here.


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