This article is the second part of a historical investigation into the Long Lane School For Girls, an institution for deviant female youth, formerly adjacent to the University’s campus.

Long Lane School For Girls is an unknown entity for many Wesleyan students, its vacant halls just a curious part of the local landscape. But only a decade ago, Long Lane still lived as a functioning juvenile correctional facility, if one plagued by problems with abuse and neglect.

Guided throughout its history by the ideals of its ambitious founders, Long Lane nonetheless changed dramatically in character as the 20th century came to a close. The school underwent two of its most significant changes in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The first change came when Long Lane was brought under the supervision of the Connecticut Department of Children and Youth Services, which, not coincidentally, followed the landmark 1967 Supreme Court case, “In re Gault.” The Gault case “made it more difficult for youth to be sent to institutions for status offenses,” wrote Beth Davies ’09 in her thesis about Long Lane in Middletown’s collective memory.

This meant that the makeup of the school necessarily shifted—fewer youth were sent there for minor, non-criminal charges and more were sent for serious violations of state or federal law.

A second change came just a few years later, in 1972, when male inmates were added to the population of the school. It seems that this shift in admission and authority altered more than the school’s demographics. Long Lane, by most accounts, became more of a genuine detention facility in this period. Davies quotes a local woman named Dorothy in her thesis.

“The girls, they raised cows down there, and they took care of the cows and the barns and they grew strawberries down by the field,” Davies quotes Dorothy as saying. “For many years, you could go down there and pick the strawberries that remained, [but] after, the school changed…. It became a boys’ school.”

Although it would be hard to say that the school was idyllic before the advent of coeducation—it was, after all, a detention facility meant to cure or at least isolate “delinquent” children—accounts of the school after the early 1970s make it clear that Long Lane became more prison-like, and its early high standards were deteriorating quickly.

Davies also quotes Mitchell, a young man sent to Long Lane School, currently a Middletown resident.

“That was not a school; it was a warehouse for kids,” Davies quotes Mitchell as saying.

The decline of Long Lane from an institution with high hopes of providing a home away from home for troubled girls to a catch-all facility for kids with as diverse problems as pregnancy to larceny charges was well noted in the local and state press. News reports of runaways from Long Lane abound after the 1970s, and the fate of the property and the school became a subject of heated debate by the late 1990s.

By that point, the school was a shadow of its former self. Buildings were decrepit and ridden with asbestos. Parts of the property designated for likely runaways were fenced in. Buildings equivalent to solitary confinement units had been put into use.

And, perhaps most importantly, the old reform ethic seems to have been virtually abandoned. Staff members were repeatedly accused of abuse and neglect. It is unclear, however, if there were more instances of these offenses or simply more reports of them.

The September 1998 suicide of 15-year-old Tabatha B. brought these issues to the fore. A Child Fatality Review Panel report from the Office of Governmental Accountability in late 1998 recounts in harsh and public detail the extent to which Tabatha’s death could have been prevented by an institution better equipped than Long Lane to deal with her mental health. Based on the report, it seems shocking  that Long Lane was not shut down long before 2003.

Noting that Long Lane School operated as a Department of Children and Families (DCF) correctional facility without oversight, accreditation, or licensing, the report goes on to discuss the seeming futility of reporting the many alleged acts of abuse at the facility.

“Reports of abuse and neglect against children by staff and agency police officers are investigated by DCF Hotline, another branch of the same agency, without independent oversight of those investigations,” the report reads.

This messy bureaucracy, as intimated by the writers of the report, was compounded by the dysfunctional nature of the juvenile detention system and Long Lane School itself.

“After a long series of failed placements in foster homes, shelters, and a residential facility, Tabatha was ultimately placed in Connecticut’s only juvenile correctional facility, an institution that is overcrowded, lacks resources, is understaffed and does not provide the therapeutic milieu necessary to treat a diverse population of emotionally disturbed children,” the report continues.

The report ends by making clear that signs of Tabatha’s suicidal tendencies were apparent for years before she succeeded (she had first attempted to end her life when she was five), but the various state agencies tasked with caring for her, including Long Lane, failed to notice them or take appropriate action in response.

Tabatha was found hanging in her room at Long Lane School on Sept. 26, 1998. She died two days later.

“State Child Advocate Linda Pearce Prestley called conditions there ‘appalling’ after her investigation into the girl’s death,” reads a Hartford Courant article from a few months after Tabatha’s passing.

Tabatha’s suicide was the first in the century-long history of the school, but it colored the past and future of Long Lane for all involved. The late 1990s saw passionate debate in and around Middletown about the future of the school. After the state proposed a renovation of the property into a smaller and more high-security facility, neighbors of the school protested.

The University bought the property in 2000 for $15 million, ultimately helping to fund the construction of a new juvenile detention facility for boys, which opened in August 2001 at the Connecticut Valley Hospital. By 2003, the girls of Long Lane had been moved to other facilities throughout the state; no equivalent to Long Lane School was built for the female inmates after the school’s closing.

In the years since The University bought the Long Lane property, all but three of the school’s buildings have been demolished. The Cady Building became the Physical Plant office, and a turf field was erected in the place of one of the secure units.

Its political history has been, in many ways, subsumed by an environmental presence: disputes over remediation of the property due to polluted soil have taken center stage, and Long Lane Farm has become a centerpiece of the University community’s sustainability efforts.

Perhaps as a result of the limited institutional memory of such a transient community, most students have only a vague idea of the history of Long Lane; for most, it is that idyllic sounding place just down the road. Interest in memorializing the site in some way has come to little, and most seem content to let the memories and the ghosts of Long Lane School lay fallow for the coming years.

  • Jay

    Wow , a sea of feeling just came rushing back when i read this. I was there in Briggs when Tabitha’s suicide happen i was in the cell/room next to her. There is so much that happened here that was unreal. RIP Tab gone but never forgotten <3 <3

  • sean

    I was in D.I.U when that happened just starting my 4 year S.J.O at 13 I remember when they closed down the old lane and opened the new one I was one of the 1st 50 kids in the new lane

  • Candy

    I was on Hartford county then adapt then long lane she passed two days before I got there. The guards cruel and cold showed me her room turned into a towel and sheet storage and put me in the cell next door. I hope that place and no other evil institution comes up!

    • Christie

      I remember going in that room and getting towels and things in there the girls tried to play a prank by locking me in there I wasn’t scared Tabatha was peoples

  • Candy

    I’ll never forget her! Rip

  • Anonymous

    I am so glad to have found this article!

    My aunt worked in the kitchen at Long Lane from 1942-1972 and we’d visit her there, infrequently, in the late 60s to early 70s when i was 7-12ish.

    she preferred to visit us and never much spoke about the school except under her breath. as an aunt she was tough and sassy in an old vermonter way.

    I remember a very bright airy kitchen with bowls of apples and potatoes n the huge central wood block counter and her telling us that some of the girls had been “bad” and were locked in their rooms as they had pierced their own ears with sharpened bobby pins and got caught because of the bleeding.

    i remember some curious and sullen faces as I walked down the hall, mostly black, though I said a cheery hello to all we passed. Aunt Mary cared a lot about people and showed it by being toughest on those she loved the most. i hope this translated to the girls she fed at Long Lane. There is no way she was one of the cruel ones, and she often refused to speak of her bosses and those in charge of the girls, instead pursing her lips as if to say “you do NOT want to know”. I could tell she was far fonder of the girls than the staff. as a single woman back then she was suspect herself so perhaps she identified?

    • Jean Richmond

      wow I wonder is she is the one who taught me to cook rice in Fabrique house and then to wash windows with newspaper and vinegar. She told me right off, if I said to her, kiss my ass she would kick my ass.I liked her and most of the cooks were nice.

      • Tulipia

        OMG! that would totally have been Aunt Mary! My parents and other uptight relatives had a fit when she swore! She was maybe 4’11’, though I suspect she was closer to 5′ before she started shrinking, and her hair was white but tinged blue-ish as she used some blue rinse on it that was popular for grey hair at the time. It was “set” nightly in curlers and always had one big ringlet down her forehead so I teased her that she was “The girl with the curl in her forehead” from that old rhyme.

        If you wandered near the stove while she had something cooking she’d appear out of nowhere and smack your hand with a wooden spatula. She was hilarious, but in a way us kids got and which “the adults” never got. Or, were jealous of. For a woman back then to swear at that age was a sort of freedom from appearances that was rare.

        She’d been a teacher before that so she turned most moments into teaching moments.

      • Jean Richmond

        Yes, this sounds like her ,she wasn’t very big, but she was feisty ! She would sit with us girls in the evenings sometimes, crocheting. I have fond memories of her. I was amazed at a hat she crocheted one evening. I can still see her sitting in the rocking chair like the first time I met her . Thank You Tulipia, for sharing her memory

      • Tulipia

        YES! when we went to Vermont to see her after she left CT I would stay at her house and while we watched tv she’d sit in her rocking chair and knit or crochet, and she could finish a sweater in 2 days. I had so many crazy knitted things bc i was young and chose crazy-weird designs. I even had a purple crocheted jumpsuit/overalls set; like button straps at the shoulders with bib front and all the way down to bell bottoms with a matching hat!

        For every birthday we’d choose a color and style and she’d make it. During commercials she’d run to the kitchen and fiddle about. By bedtime she’d have 4 pies cooling, a few dozen date cookies (round with a glump of date in the middle; these were her trademark cookies and I loved them bc she wouldn’t tell us they were dates in the middle; she said it was a jam), and some breads.

        I loved that she spoke her mind. Thank YOU, Jean, for sharing your memories with her. I always wondered if the girls got her as she was so outspoken. And I always wondered why she didnt get fired for telling off the director and other evil employees. maybe they were afraid she’d rat them out?

      • Jean Richmond

        That is a shame they fired her but that was their style when confronted with their wrongs, they hid me out of state for telling the governor on them… If you would like to connect with others along the way who may join in discussions on face book or the web page you can check out long lane school for girls on face book, join the group , like the page and check on the web page at weebly for more updates as they happen . I thought of your Aunt Mary often in my life . She taught me that lesson about respect , If I showed her respect, she would show me respect too.

      • Tulipia

        That is really so nice to hear. She was the same way in our family in that she would call people out and as a result us kids adored her and she taught us about standing up for ourselves and earning respect. The adults would say, “she lies”, but we knew better as she’d call them out on stuff we’d actually seen them do and/or heard them say.

        I will go find the facebook page now. Thanks!

      • Tulipia

        Tabatha’s death greatly impacted her so she left soon after because she didn’t agree with the fact that it happened and the way it was run and often called the other employees, “evil shits” and “mean ole assholes” to us kids, when other adults were not present. She would never hurt a fly. In her later years in a nursing home in northern VT she often got into trouble for telling off the meaner residents and workers. ;-)

  • I would love to read part one of this article. Does anybody know where it is at?

  • Denise Ribideau

    I was sent to longlanes after all other placment failed although I was sexually abused by house leaders at night I loved my days made friends that became family adding the boys made it that much better I remember the day I left….n still have fond memories it was therapeutic for me because I was instatutionalized and it met my needs my nickname was Angel my name Denise Duguay would love to talj with anyone who was there 73-75

    • Roberta

      I was there 78&79 spent my first 30 in lockdown pierced my nose Lol still pierced 5 of us got the same tattoo still have an several people I still remember by full name 5 of us had a successful escape in 79 myself Denise Gwen n two other Believe or not boys helped plan it for us 5 girls by causing a riot in their cottage to draw all att n n security down there , luv u guys I’m Roberta Salvati n Long lane made its mark on me an I left my Mark

    • Charmaine

      I went to this school from 1/16/1998-11/3/1998. It was a living hell in that group home. I was in Briggs Cottage Group A. I’ve seen a 15 yr old suicide victim hanging in her room in there and nothing but chaos in this place. I would never recommend this place to anyone looking to help their child.

    • Rosalyn / ” Midget”

      Was You in Smith or Craig?

  • jose Santana

    I was in long lane in the early 90’s the things I’ve experienced there will forever be an imprint in my brain the intimidation and raps by the clients the eye that was turned by staff cuz of favoritism sexual favors and harm the conditions of the place the ppl who are no longer with us the crimes I’ve committed in that place the attempted escapes,isolations e.t.c I was there as a s.j.o and was there from twelve to sixteen where at that age your an adult and are let free no matter the crime after that I’ve been incarcerated most of my life and have been a victim too drug abuse I wonder how many others have become a victim of these circumstances due to the institutionalized ppl who have grew up in places like this! To this day long lane has been a part of my story and wonder if I can ever find my truth through the hallways of my memory that this place has built. Wow this is extraordinary and I know that mentally this place has done something to me that I still to this day am trying to finds answered god bless to all that were there with me that aren’t today…

  • Roberta

    Wow I was in long lane twice last being 1979 when I was 14. I spent my first thirty down in lock down also escaped with 4 others. Reading this brings back Sooooo many memories RIP Tabitha so sad

  • Andrea C.

    I was at Long lane during 1979 or 1980 when I was about 14 or 15 yrs old. I was there temporary, being placed in a different group home at that time.
    I remember Long Lane was a very creepy old building and they treated everyone like criminals, they would lock people up in solitary, and use shackles and handcuffs.
    Terrible group therapy too.
    I don’t know if anyone remembers me I will only give my first name, Andrea. last name is an Italian name. lol

    • Patricia Demayo

      you might have been there after me

  • Christie

    I was in long lane in the 90s it does bring flash backs Tabatha was a good person she was my roommate in Hartford d for a long time we bonded sad she’s gone its been so long r.I.p

    • Christie


  • Patricia Demayo

    I was in long lane in the mid 60s .I was 14/15…looking for friends that attended the school…ugg that place was awful drugging us girls,and abuse and sexual abuse.if anyone was there or their relatives contact me please at …..

  • Patricia Demayo

    I was there in 1968

  • Jean Richmond

    I was there around 1969-70. A horrible place , think you know me ? look for me on facebook.

    • Jean Richmond

      most people may be ready to let the ghosts lie, but if you were there for as long as I was, the ghosts will follow you for life no matter where you go.

    • Rosalyn / ” Midget”

      Can’t find You on FB!! :-)

      • Jean Richmond

        Thanks for letting me know about facebook ! Try looking for Long Lane School for Girls ,a public facebook page and Long Lane School , a public facebook group . Also you can message me on facebook by my name.

  • Patricia Demayo

    a dog shouldn’t been placed there all abuse both physical n sexual

  • Rosalyn / ” Midget”

    I was in Smith Cottage. 72/75 there were 2 girl Cottages then. Briggs was Our Dining Hall. Conditions… the showers in the Basement were like 3rd World Slums.. The State should be ashamed to allow Children to be subjected to those conditions. If You remember Smith and need a ear, inbox Me on FB … rosalyn Moody :-)

  • Pete

    Reading this brings back memories. I was in long lane from 94 to 96 Craig cottage group A then they shut down Craig and I went to founders group home. Long lane had a lot of corrupt situations but I remember a lot of the staff like Stephanie, Kevin. Ms pat, ms bess, olardy, dre, even the teachers Ms Thompkins who can forget her she was beautiful. R.I.P Tabitha sad to hear that. But that place was haunted and I remember hearing foot steps in the attic and the staff wouldn’t even check it out lol… There was some good times in there but some depressing as well like constantly fighting in unit 1 then being transferred to unit 3 with a bunch of cool as staff. All in all its good they tore it down but those memories are forever burned into my memory’s.. Also R.I.P Ms Bess a really good woman. And if your reading this and you were there remember Ramon Matos is still alive and free!!! I made it I’m not a statistic!!!!

  • westhillsgirl

    I was sent to Long Lane in late 1959. Not for committing a crime. No I was sent there because after going through a traumatic time at the age of 13, going to school became difficult for me. I was in a single parent home and my mom worked every day. For those two reasons it was decided by juvenile court officials that I should be sent to LL for a period of 18 months. Told if I behaved I could be out in 6 months. That was a total lie. No one left before 18 months even those who were angelic. I never saw anyone caring for cows, though there were a few in a nearby field. Farm work which included picking strawberries was on the list of chores and you were lucky if chosen to so. Laundry, waxing floors, polishing doorknobs by the hundreds and cleaning bathrooms and staff rooms, kitchen duty were the main jobs. Just the type of work all teenagers want to do. Schooling took place for less than an hr or two a day. Disciple for anything was to be locked in a room with a mattress from a day or two or weeks. I remember my first day in school, asked a girl what page they were on in the history book. That night I was told I needed to be in my room at 5pm til 6am for a week for speaking in class. That was easy. I spent two weeks locked in my room with my mattress on the floor many times after that for a variety of reasons. Upon arrival you were automatically locked up for a few weeks just in case you had lice or a communicable disease. The traumatic event that got me sent to Long Lane–I had been sexually assaulted at age 12. Gave birth to a daughter 9 months later at age 13. Was forced to give her up for adoption. A month later I guess I was expected to resume a normal life and was punished for not doing so. Time spent at LL was at times frightening, lonely, and I cannot remember any programs there to help those girls who were mainly emotionally disturbed. It was closed shortly after I was released, but not before it robbed me and so many others of our teenage years.

    • Jean Richmond

      I can attest to what you are saying. The girls never took care of the cows. Everything you are saying is what happened to so many girls.

      • byron sailor

        Fuck long lane I was there from 1981 to 1988 I gave them hell I was in Pratt b cottage but spent most of the time in the units and isolation till I would knock the doors off the hinges then they would call security it was a clown pieac of shot name Kevin down I hated him I wanted to kill him so ducked badly he denied my mother to visit me in the unit

      • Hector

        I was there in 83 started in Fabrique then wet on a 6 hr run put in unit 3 then placed in Russell then sent to Glenn Mills School in PA. I can relate. But that’s behind us we need to help these kids now cause they are really lost.

    • Annie Harding

      I was in LL 1963 to 1967 I don’t remember taking care of cows neither we use to go in the field and pick strawberries……yeah I was in lockup many times. I was in Fabrique house …..I went to school maybe a month then they let me quit at the age of 15 no questions asked

      • Julie Tardi

        Annie I was there in 1962 to 1966 I think I was in the same house as you…I had a friend there named Annie Torti she wrote to me after she got out but my grandmother told me be4 she died about a letter she threw out from Annie she was afraid I would get sent back…and as I sit here so many years later wondering if that was you

  • Steff

    So sorry to hear of your “incarceration” (for lack of a better term), and would be interested, if you are so inclined, to learn more about the goings on of Long Lane during your stay there. I have been researching various institutions that existed in CT. I must say, so far I’m not impressed with the way they were run. Thank you for sharing your experience and God Bless.

    • Hector

      It not that person but definitely was abused the I was there in the boy section and I was treated like a animal will love to sue for what was done to me as child

      • Steff

        I’m so sorry you had to go through that, Hector. How long were you there?

  • Sue Dutch

    My friend, Blanche, was sent to long lane at 15 for being pregnant. Her baby was taken from her at birth. She attempted suicide several times over the next three years. Sho was released at age 18. The last time I saw her, she had just been released and was working at a woodworking factory in East Hampton. It’s been many years, but I would very much like to get back in touch as I was not allowed to maintain contact with her back then and have thought of her often and wondered how the rest of her life has gone. If anyone out there knew her, or has any information as to her whereabouts, I would be very appreciative. Thanks.

  • Dick Steuart

    Goldrush Ave, Melbourn, FL 32940-6501

  • Susan Devoss

    i was in long lane school in 1972-1974. sent there for neglect by my parents. the so-called ‘care’ we received was negligent,at best. also,’schooling’ was virtually non-existent as most of the inmates wouldn’t participate and disrupted classes. while i was there a friend of mine was murdered on the premises in the boy’s section. there were many deaths there over the years that went uninvestigated and unpunished.

    • Kailey Blount

      Hi Ms. Devoss,
      My name is Kailey Blount, and I am a student at Sacred Heart University studying literature and writing. I am writing you because I am hoping to publish an article on the abuse and mistreatment which occurred at schools like Long Lane. Right now, in Ireland, there are many reports coming out about mother baby homes, places young pregnant teenage girls were sent to have their infants in secret. These girls were forced to give up their babies for adoption by abusive institutions and work for near no pay. These stories are not unique to Ireland, and I am hoping to shed light on yours. I know it is difficult to speak about the past and I understand if my request is too much to ask. Although if you would like to talk, I would be honored to hear your story. Thank you for your time and I hope I can be of any help.
      Kailey Blount

  • Jean Richmond

    I was in Long lane from 1969-1971 . It was a nightmare to be placed there. Due to being an orphan before elementary school, I was placed in other peoples homes where I suffered from abuse. So I ran away. Everytime they hit me, I would run away. They labeled me incoragible , deliquent etc. and sent me to Long lane . I made up my mind to run away from there too, every chance I got . After getting caught ,there was lock up for weeks at a time and a doctor exam., before being let out to school. Many girls tattooed,or cut themselves in the long hours we spent locked up in the rooms ,especially on weekends. Past residents can join a page on facebook for long lane school .

  • Rosalie Santana

    I was not sent to long lane but I
    remember Tabatha she was with me at Hartford detention center before we where both placed in different facilities I have not forgotten her or her kindness she while we both waited for placement. I still hurt thinking about my youth days how some were helped while many not. I hope people can get a better idea of what these so called troubled youths need. I was lucky in the end that the group home I was in had people who really cared about us and not just a paycheck and where they had no judgement on our past or made us feel like we were pittied. Reading this brought alot back for me and not forgotten friend.

  • isurvived

    Long Lane was shit !
    abuse, scrubbing floors being treated like a slave or animal
    spending time is isolation on a matress on the floor
    horrible abuse