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02/23/2017

Gov. Malloy Introduces Legislation Reforming the Pretrial Justice System to Help Break the Cycle of Crime and Poverty

Signs Connecticut onto the 3DaysCount National Campaign to Apply Solutions to Pretrial Challenges that Discriminate Against the Poor

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that he has submitted a legislative proposal to the Connecticut General Assembly that will reform the state’s current methods of detention for people who have only been arrested, but not convicted of any crimes, in order to continue efforts to further reduce the state’s historically low crime rate. The proposed reforms target adults accused of committing nonviolent misdemeanors who are unable to afford bail and – due to no other available options – languish in jail for potentially extended periods of time. In turn, this situation often creates a deteriorating condition where they are unable to earn a paycheck to support themselves and their families, intensifying their economic instability and potentially increasing their inability to lead productive lives within the community.

By continuing to detain those who cannot afford bail, the Governor said, we have created a system that takes a bad situation and only makes it worse.

“The effect of a few days of detention for people who have been accused of misdemeanors and not released simply because they do not have the ability to pay can be devastating and far reaching – possibly leading to the loss of employment and housing,” Governor Malloy said. “Once bail is set by the court, the only difference between an accused person who is able to remain in the community and an accused person who remains detained is access to money. If we want to lower crime, if we want to make our communities even safer and ensure that those who leave our jails don’t come back, then we must break the cycle of crime and poverty. These are reforms that leaders on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, are supporting across our country for one reason – because they are producing real results.”

Today in Connecticut, there are 3,043 people being held in jail because they cannot post bond – that accounts for 21 percent of the entire prison population. Of that amount, 296 are women who are being held at York Correctional Institution. In addition, 610 are people who are being held on bonds of less than $20,000. A number of state and federal courts have ruled that it is unconstitutional to incarcerate a person simply because he or she is too poor to post a bond, including the Maryland Court of Appeals, which released such a decision earlier this month.

“The justice system should treat all residents equally,” Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said. “These initiatives respond to a system that doesn’t make our communities any safer – it just benefits the wealthy over the poor. This legislation will continue the progress we’ve made in bringing crime rates down and protecting public safety.”

Governor Malloy’s proposals are gaining support from a variety of groups from across the political spectrum, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT) and the Yankee Institute for Public Policy.

“Our constitution promises equal treatment under the law, but Connecticut’s bail system is unequal. Reforming Connecticut’s bail system remains the right thing to do,” David McGuire, Executive Director of ACLU-CT, said. “We call on the legislature to stand up for equality, justice, and compassion by passing meaningful bail reform this legislative session. Other parts of the country have shown that bail reform is possible. Connecticut should follow suit.”

“When people don’t pose a risk to their community, there is a real cost to keeping them in jail simply because they cannot post bail – both a human cost and a financial cost,” Suzanne Bates, Policy Director for the Yankee Institute, said. “Keeping low-risk defendants in jail before their trials because they cannot afford to post bail is not the best use of tax dollars – it winds up costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars each day and millions of dollars per year with no added public safety benefit.”

Governor Malloy’s legislative proposal makes the following reforms:

Prohibits Money Bail for Persons Charged Only with a Misdemeanor

  • Prohibits a judge from setting money bail for anyone charged only with a misdemeanor, except where:
    • The judge determines that the accused poses an immediate threat to the health or wellbeing of another person; or
    • The accused has a history of failing to appear for court dates.

Provides Defendants the Opportunity to Make a Cash Deposit of Ten Percent of the Bail Set

  • Provides every defendant the opportunity to make a cash deposit of ten percent of the bail set by a judge in order to be released while awaiting trial.
    • This option currently exists in the rules of court, but isn’t in statute and often isn’t used.
    • If a bond with surety is set as a condition for release by the court, the accused would have the option of either making a ten percent cash deposit to be held by the court OR of accessing the services of a bail bondsman.
    • A judge would have the opportunity to deny the accused the option of a ten percent cash deposit should they find that the defendant poses a significant threat to another individual or to public safety.
  • The accused’s ten percent cash deposit would be deposited into an interest bearing account. Upon disposition of their case and their successful appearance at each court date, the accused would have their deposit returned.
  • Requires the judicial branch, in collaboration with the Office of the State Treasurer, to make recommendations on using interest accrued on forfeited cash bail deposited with the court to fund legal aid by January 1, 2018.

Requires that Bail Redetermination Hearings Be Held More Frequently

  • Requires that a bail re-determination hearing be held every fourteen days (down from current requirement of every thirty days) for a person charged with a misdemeanor, a class D or E felony, or an unclassified felony (with a maximum term of five years), and requires that a bail re-determination hearing be held every thirty days (down from current requirement of every forty-five days) for a person charged with a class A, B or C felony.

Prohibits “Cash Only Bond”

  • Prohibits judges from requiring a person to post “cash only bond” by clarifying that under no circumstances shall a court order an arrested person to deposit cash bail in an amount greater than ten per cent.

Requires a Finding on the Record of Ability to Pay

  • Requires the court to make a finding on the record of an arrested person’s ability to pay the amount of bond set, and to have the arrested person complete a written statement setting forth their liabilities and assets, income and sources of such income, and any other information the judicial branch designates.

Tightens Up Requirements Relating to Bond Forfeiture Procedures

  • Transfers authority for collection of forfeited bonds from the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney to the Attorney General’s Office.
  • Reduces the automatic 6 month mandatory stay to a 45 day mandatory stay, and requires that all bonds are due in full upon expiration of that stay. Currently, only 50 percent of the bond is due upon expiration of the stay.
  • Requires revocation of the licenses of bail bondsmen who fail to pay within 30 days of the date payment of the bond is due.
  • Permits the judge to rebate up to 50 percent of the bond forfeited if the arrested person is returned to the jurisdiction of the court within one year after the date the bond was forfeited.

The Governor’s legislation is House Bill 7044, An Act Concerning Pretrial Justice Reform. It has been referred to the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, where it is currently pending for consideration by lawmakers.

In addition, Governor Malloy today also announced that he has signed Connecticut as a participant in the 3DaysCount national campaign to apply commonsense solutions to longstanding pretrial challenges that discriminate against the poor, fail to protect individual and community safety, and squander public resources that could be better used elsewhere. Over the next several years, by 2020, participating states and territories will be setting a new national standard of pretrial justice by:

  • reducing unnecessary arrests – for example, by increasing law enforcement’s use of safe and effective pre-arrest diversion or deflection, and alternatives to booking, such as issuing citations in lieu of custodial arrest;
  • replacing cash bail with practical, objective risk-based decision-making about release conditions; and
  • restricting detention (after due process) to the small number of people who pose an unmanageable risk to public safety or of failing to appear in court.

Jurisdictions selected to participate in 3DaysCount join a community of active innovators and receive support in updating court rules, state statutes and, when necessary, state constitutions to conform with best practices, as well as in communications and public education strategies. The campaign is led by the Pretrial Justice Institute, a national nonprofit resource on pretrial practice and procedure that works to advance safe, fair, and effective pretrial systems that honor and protect all people.

“Under Governor Malloy, Connecticut has shown exceptional leadership in its determination to reduce unnecessary arrests, move away from the use of unfair, ineffective, and discriminatory money bail, and ensure that courts can confidently protect victims and communities from the small number of defendants who are genuinely dangerous,” Cherise Fanno Burdeen, CEO of the Pretrial Justice Institute, said. “By joining the 3DaysCount community, Connecticut is adding momentum to a national movement that is leading to safer communities, more effective use of scarce public resources, and better outcomes for poor and working class people who come in contact with law enforcement.”

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