Last week's well-attended forum on juvenile crime and justice, called by Glastonbury's Town Council, was illuminating, just not so much about juvenile crime and justice.
Dozens of people expressed their anger about the inability of state and municipal government to curtail the explosion of car thefts, burglaries, and other misconduct by young people who have realized that there will never be any punishment for them, just therapy, now that political correctness controls juvenile justice.
Mostly the forum illuminated Connecticut's social contract, whereby the Democratic Party is permitted to operate the cities as poverty and patronage factories, with their daily murders and assaults on top of car thefts, robberies, burglaries, and other mayhem and their thousands of helpers ministering to the perpetual dysfunction, as long as the middle and upper classes can move to the suburbs and put "Black Lives Matter" signs on their lawns in mock solidarity.
Connecticut's anger about juvenile crime has been simmering for more than a year, with police complaining that their arrests of young perpetrators quickly come to nothing in juvenile court. This anger was brought to the boiling point June 30 when New Britain police announced that the 17-year-old charged with driving the stolen car that ran down and killed Henryk Gudelski in the city the day before was a chronic offender who in the last 3½ years had been arrested 13 times, some of the charges being serious, but who was nevertheless free.
So for the month since Gudelski was killed the big questions have been:
Why was this chronic offender free?
Who in the juvenile justice system handled his cases?
How were they handled, and why?
Who is responsible and where is the accountability?
Chief State's Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr. attended the forum in Glastonbury and was pressed vigorously about why the chronic offender in the New Britain case had been free. Having had more than three weeks to examine the atrocious failure and at least a few days to prepare for the forum, Colangelo replied uselessly: He didn't know. Nor did Colangelo pledge to find out and make a report.
Also in attendance were Glastonbury's three state legislators – state Reps. Jill Barry and Jason Doucette and Sen. Steve Cassano, Democrats all – and they didn't promise to find out and report either.
No, apparently everything in the juvenile justice system is to remain closed to the public even when the system's failure kills someone.
Indeed, two years ago Democratic state legislators and Governor Lamont enacted legislation to impose secrecy even on murder and rape trials of juveniles and young adults. Fortunately federal courts found the law unconstitutional, but it still signifies the secrecy and unaccountability for which many Connecticut Democrats strive.
That's why nearly all discussion now about possible "reforms" for juvenile justice is meaningless.
Representative Barry told the forum she would increase police access to juvenile criminal records, release an arrested juvenile only to an adult taking responsibility for him, transfer more juvenile cases to adult court, and put juvenile defendants under house arrest monitored by electronic tracking.
But none of this would address the failure with chronic offenders.
None of this would achieve accountability in particular cases.
None of this would provide any mechanism for ensuring that reforms are followed.
Barry's proposals all could be enacted and the public still would not know why the chronic offender accused of killing Henryk Gudelski was free after 13 arrests in 3½ years.
Nor would Barry's proposals provide any accountability in any other juvenile crime cases.
Accountability is possible only by ending the secrecy of the juvenile justice system.
Liberal Democrats are responsible for this disaster. A few years ago they closed Connecticut's secure juvenile treatment facility – a softer sort of prison – and decided that social work without detention could fix everything. The liberal Democrats believe that every troublesome young person should have his own special-education teacher, therapist, social worker, police officer, public defender, and probation officer – all unionized, of course – as well as infinite chances, but no parents.
This policy has not only worsened juvenile crime but increased the demand for guns as people realize that Connecticut's politically correct government lacks the nerve to protect them against the social disintegration it has been causing.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.