Friday, November 06, 2015
(HARTFORD, CT) - Governor Dannel P. Malloy presented some first-in-the-nation ideas regarding criminal justice today at a Connecticut Law Review symposium held at the UConn School of Law in Hartford. While Connecticut has become a national leader in its criminal justice efforts, the Governor introduced several ideas to deliver further progress, including 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.
REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
Thank you. Thank you all for having me here today.
America was founded by people seeking a second chance at freedom and opportunity…by those seeking a brighter future and a clean slate.
It's at our core. It's who we are as a state and as a nation. Opportunity for all.
And yet, in many ways, we have lost our way. We have become a society that has invested more in life-long punishment and permanent stigma, instead of permanent progress and permanent reform.
Consider this. Between 1985 and 2008, Connecticut's prison population quadrupled - up 400 percent in just two decades.
In Connecticut, we spent over a billion taxpayer dollars - a billion - to build 10,000 new prison beds.
And we did that while our public education system funneled too many children into what we now call the "School to Prison Pipeline."
In Connecticut and across the nation, we imprisoned a generation of offenders - often non-violent, substance addicted, mentally ill or just plain poor - without thinking about the long-term consequences.
These individuals have emerged from prison with little chance at attaining an education or even a decent job.
Last year on the campaign trail and in cities and towns around the state, I said that Connecticut - and America - needed to transform our approach.
Because it hasn't worked.
It's failed taxpayers… costing them billions. It's failed communities. When we were supposed to be a nation of opportunity, we enacted criminal justice policies that focused on building modern jails instead of modern schools. We enacted policies that delivered an endless cycle of poverty and punishment, instead of an endless cycle of opportunity and freedom.
Today, I am cautiously optimistic in saying that our country, in red states and in blue, seems to be changing course. Prior Initiatives
Here in Connecticut, we have led this sea change, as we have so often led nationally. And here's what the sea change entailed in our state.
When I took office in 2011, we targeted violent offenders-those who pose a serious threat to our communities-and put them away for longer stretches. We focused our efforts on our three biggest cities, which account for 50 percent of the violent crime in our state. Under my administration, violent felons are serving longer sentences and more of their sentences in prison than ever.
We've worked to have stronger relationships in our communities, bound by the belief that law enforcement at all levels should work closely with the communities they serve. We implemented programs like Project Longevity to that end.
We can say today, confidently, that our reforms are working. A significant drop in crime, safer communities and fewer low-risk offenders in prison-all are direct outgrowths of the steps we've taken.
In our communities, violent crime is dropping rapidly. According to the FBI, reported crime in CT is at its lowest level in 48 years. Violent Crime is down 36 percent. In fact, violent crime is dropping faster here than in almost any state in the nation.
Less reported crime means fewer arrests. Criminal arrests are down again from last month and last year…with nearly 6,000 fewer year-to date arrests in 2015 from 2014.
Our prison population has dropped to the lowest it has been in 17 years with 4,000 fewer inmates than in 2008, a 20 percent drop. As a result, we have been able to close three prisons.
While we have cracked down on violent crime, we have also taken significant steps to create a more just society.
One example is Raise the Age. In 2007, Connecticut recognized that young people, incarcerated in adult prisons, are especially at risk for negative outcomes.
Put simply, adult facilities often function as "crime schools", where youth learn more about being better criminals than better citizens.
Thanks to the leadership of legislators like Rep. Toni Walker, and now-Mayor Toni Harp, my administration was in a position to fully implement "Raise the Age" in Connecticut.
When the "Raise the Age" process began, some said that it would cost millions of dollars and overwhelm the juvenile courts with all of the new cases for 16 and 17 year olds.
Here's the reality. "Raise the Age" resulted in a significant decrease in the number of cases, and today I am proud to report that:
The best evidence of the success of Raise the Age is what has happened to young adults as they age out of the juvenile system. The number of inmates in a correctional facility between the ages of 18 and 21 is at its lowest in more than a quarter-century. It's down 51 percent over the last six years-and still dropping.
We have led the nation in other important reforms.
Under my administration, we eliminated the death penalty in Connecticut.
We decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. This change has resulted in 6,000 fewer arrests per year since adoption.
We passed and implemented, in cooperation with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a house arrest alternative to mandatory prison sentences that has reduced recidivism and allowed offenders to remain sober but still go to work, pay their bills and support their families.
And, we implemented a Risk Reduction Earned Credit system that has reduced recidivism, making our communities safer while keeping our most high risk, dangerous offenders incarcerated.
And of course, we passed the smartest, toughest gun safety legislation in the nation-one that has saved lives, and gotten guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them.
All of this is to say that we have tailored our approach. When it comes to criminal justice, one size does not fit all. Second Chance
But progress is no doubt incremental. If we are to be a state and a nation of permanent progress and reform, then our work is never complete.
That brings us to our historic bipartisan Second Chance Society legislation. Earlier this year, we took another step in being smart on crime: we reduced all simple drug possession crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. We eliminated all mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession.
And we did that to ensure that the punishment fits the crime…that those who live, and go to school, and work in a city do not face an entirely different system of justice than those in the suburbs.
We established an expedited parole process for non-violent, no victim offenders, so that they can spend less time in prison learning how to be career criminals.
We have also created a process through which low-risk offenders can obtain a pardon when they have paid their debt to society.
We are expediting - and simplifying - the pardons process.
That means citizens will be able to return to society with a fresh start - they'll be able to get a job, find a home, or get an education.
We did it because you can't end a cycle of crime and poverty unless you tackle its causes.
That's why we're investing in job training for ex-offenders,
We're making efforts to end the school-to-prison-pipeline, and expanding supportive housing to frequent users of substance abuse, mental health and corrections programs.
It's also why we're tailoring our approach within our prisons, to deliver a re-entry process within prison walls to be conducive to opportunity in the outside world.
We are offering services, job training and other basic life skills that will prepare inmates for successful life upon leaving prison.
Because we don't want them to come back. Our inmates cost us $120 per night. Every single inmate.
Let's be sure that when they leave, they don't come back. A New Focus
That leads us to today - and the conversations we should consider having going forward.
Today and in the future, I would like to begin a statewide conversation about:
Mass incarceration has, for far too long, jailed a generation of men of color. It also left their sons and daughters less likely to graduate high school, less likely to marry and less likely to have children in two parent households.
So if it sounds like Second Chance Part Two, that's because it is.
As we think broadly and systemically about adults, we need to think about our kids.
Since that initial "Raise the Age" effort, we have learned more about young adults and their brain development and maturation.
Many of the young people currently caught in Connecticut's juvenile justice system, or the young adults who have already entered our adult system, grew up exposed to trauma in troubled homes.
Prosecutors and public defenders have recounted personal experiences of either prosecuting or defending multiple generations of men from the same family.
So let's consider this-age, within our laws and within the criminal justice system-is largely arbitrary. You can smoke at 18, but can't drink until 21.
You can commit a non-violent offense at 17 without a criminal record, but if you're 18 and you commit the same crime, it lasts a lifetime.
If we are to acknowledge that we know 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 we've imposed to get it right.
For that reason, we need to take a different approach to these young adults between the ages of 18 through 24.
Teenagers are different from young adults. Young adults are different from those in mid-life.
In the coming months, as the 2016 legislative session nears, let us start looking at the ways we treat young adult offenders.
We should particularly look at those 18 through 24 year olds who are currently too old for the juvenile system, but who so badly need another opportunity to succeed.
Is it right that a 17-year-old can have a second chance, but a 22 year old should not?
This is a question that we collectively should answer. During my visit to Germany earlier this year, I was surprised that German courts treat all arrestees under the age of 21 as juveniles. I believe that we can learn from their system.
Let us consider raising the age of the juvenile justice system's jurisdiction through age 20, instead of arbitrarily stopping that jurisdiction at age 17.
We would be the first in the nation to do so.
Let's 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, who so often are not finished maturing. We may want to consider allowing those in this age group to have their cases heard confidentially, their records sealed, and the opportunity to have records expunged.
That would be in line with national best practices, which Attorney General Lynch and the US Department of Justice are encouraging states to consider. This also, would make Connecticut a first-in-the-nation-state.
This new approach would keep low-risk, young adult offenders separate from adults while incarcerated. That might give some of these young people the best chance of turning their lives around.
If we are to be successful with our goals, we will not get there by having hardened criminals serving as mentors to those most impressionable.
To build on the reforms that we made last year, we will also look at our bail bond system and identify opportunities for reform in that system that so badly needs it.
At this very moment, there are hundreds of low-risk offenders sitting in Connecticut jails-pre-trial-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.
All of it is costing all taxpayers - and it needs to change.
We have made significant progress to end the revolving door, in and out of jail, but we need to do more. I have asked Connecticut's Corrections Commissioner, Scott Semple, to develop a plan, in coordination with the Judicial Branch, to supervise low-risk pre-trial detainees in the community rather than in jail.
The Department of Corrections has the authority to safely supervise low-risk offenders outside of jail while they wait for their day in court. That means that they will no longer spend weeks or months in jail pre-trial while taxpayers foot the daily $120 bill.
I have also sent a letter to the Connecticut Sentencing Commission asking them to study the bail bond system in Connecticut and explore best practices from around the country. 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 thousand dollars-that our criminal justice system is guided not by wealth or income or privilege, but on the severity of the crime.
We have to do more for our young people. We must be smarter about our policies.
We must end a cycle of crime and create the opportunity for success. And we must recognize that what may be trailblazing today may be the norm tomorrow.
That's how progress happens.
Together, we will continue the work that we began almost five years ago to reduce crime, restore confidence in our criminal justice system and end the injustice of mass incarceration in Connecticut.
And thanks to the leadership of so many people in this room and my colleagues in the legislature, we are moving the needle at all levels of government.
What we have already done here in Connecticut is in line with the approach President Obama is taking - and it's not just the morally right thing to do, it's the smart and pragmatic approach as well.
I am proud to join the President in calling on Congress to follow Connecticut's lead and pass bipartisan legislation to help bring about a second chance society across the United States.
Many of the same reforms are supported by Democrat and Republican members of Congress.
Here in Connecticut, we will continue to lead and be a loud voice in support of the President's efforts and his advocacy for meaningful criminal justice reform.
I thank you all for being leaders in our state's return to a second chance society.
I look forward to continuing this conversation in the coming months and, with your help, we will continue to lead our state and our country forward in the right direction.