Friday, November 06, 2015
Discusses Potential First-in-the-Nation Ideas on Juvenile Justice; Connecticut to Study and Explore Bail Reform
(HARTFORD, CT) - Governor Dannel P. Malloy, during a speech today at a Connecticut Law Review symposium on criminal justice reform, said that he is launching a conversation on how the state can build on Connecticut's "Second Chance Society" reforms. While Connecticut has been a national leader in criminal justice, some of the ideas regarding juvenile justice proposed today would be first-in-the-nation reforms. Shifting from a one-size-fits-all approach within the criminal justice system, Connecticut aims to differentiate and tailor its approach by potentially raising the age of the juvenile justice system's jurisdiction through age 20 instead of age 17, as well as allowing low-risk young adults aged 21 through 25 to have their cases heard confidentially, their records sealed, and the opportunity to have those records expunged. He also discussed exploring bail bond reform.
"We need to become a society of permanent progress, not permanent punishment. That means we need to continue innovating, and we need to keep leading. Some of these ideas are first-in-the-nation initiatives. Mass incarceration has, for far too long, jailed a generation of men of color. If this sounds like Second Chance Part Two in Connecticut, that's because it is. We have no doubt seen leadership from the White House and at federal levels, and here in Connecticut, I hope to keep forging ahead," Governor Malloy said in his address, which was held at the UConn School of Law. "Our inmates cost us $120 per night - every single inmate. Let's be sure that when they leave, they don't come back."
"If we are to acknowledge that a one-size-fits-all approach to criminal justice hasn't worked, that permanent punishment hasn't worked, then let's think about changing the artificial barriers society has imposed to get it right. We must recognize that what may be trailblazing today may be the norm tomorrow. That's how progress happens," Governor Malloy said.
Since Connecticut's initial "Raise the Age" effort in 2007, which changed state law to treat 16 and 17-year-olds as juveniles, Connecticut's prison population has dropped to its lowest level in 17 years with 4,000 fewer inmates than in 2008 - a 20 percent decrease. As such, the Governor launched a conversation on raising the age of the juvenile justice system's jurisdiction through age 20, instead of arbitrarily stopping that jurisdiction at age 17 under the current system. Connecticut would be the first state in the nation to do it.
Further, the Governor said Connecticut should also consider a new approach for those aged 21 through 25 that utilizes existing statutes to wipe the slate clean for our low-risk young adults, and potentially those in this age group to have their cases heard confidentially, their records sealed, and the opportunity to have those records potentially expunged. That would also be a first-in-the-nation accomplishment.
On bail bond reform, the Governor said the state must look at the current state of the system and identify opportunities for change. He has asked Connecticut Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple to develop a plan, in coordination with the Judicial Branch, to supervise low-risk, pretrial detainees in the community rather than in jail. In a letter to the Connecticut Sentencing Commission, he has asked for a review of the bail bond system in Connecticut and to explore best practices from around the country.
"At this very moment, there are hundreds of low-risk offenders sitting in Connecticut jails - pretrial - on low bond. Because they are unable to come up with even a few hundred dollars, the state is housing them in jail for weeks or even months," Governor Malloy said. "All of it is costing taxpayers - and it needs to change. We need to revisit our existing laws on the bail bond system that keep these low-risk individuals in jail pre-trial in the first place. And we must ensure - for those with bail under $20,000 - that our criminal justice system is guided not by wealth or income or privilege, but on the severity of the crime."
The Governor said that he intends to discuss these issues with legislative leaders and is encouraging criminal justice officials and advocates to begin a conversation on these topics.
**Download: Governor Malloy's letter to the Connecticut Sentencing Commission