September 24, 2003
gmh APPROPRIATIONS & JUDICIARY 1:00 P.M.
PRESIDING CHAIRMAN: Representative Lawlor
SENATORS: Harp, Genuario, Aniskovich,
Handley, Newton, Murphy,
REPRESENTATIVES: Dyson, Carter, Diamantis,
Nafis, Truglia, Metz,
Adinolfi, Candelaria, Caruso,
Currey, Dillon, Donovan,
Fahrbach, Farr, Fleischmann,
Gonzalez, Kerensky, O'Connor,
Orange, O'Rourke, Roy, Ryan,
Wallace, Abrams, Berger,
Boukus, Conway, Doyle, Fritz,
Green, Hamm, Klarides,
Labriola, McMahon, Olson,
O'Neill, Peters, Powers, Serra,
REPRESENTATIVE LAWLOR: If everyone could find a seat, please. First of all, let me just welcome everyone on behalf of the three committees, as it turns out, which have come together to hear the testimony from the Judiciary Committee and the Appropriations Committee and we've been joined by at least one chair. I saw the other chair of the Public Safety Committee here, Senator Newton is here.
And we passed a new law not too long ago which requires, starting next week, that we make an announcement, in rooms where there's more than 100 people, regarding where the fire exits are and so we're going to do that, start a precedent, since we'll play by the rules that we establish and in case there's any type of emergency, ladies and gentlemen, I know some of you do not come to the Capitol frequently, and you should know there are two ways out of this room, out of the building from this room. That door leads nowhere, that's just a control room in the back. Don't go out that door if there's a problem. The two doors in the front are the exits. You can either go down the escalator and out the front door of the building or turn right here and follow the crowd -- follow the exit signs, in essence, there's a door in the back. So in an emergency, those are the two ways out of this room and as I said, there's a requirement now that that announcement be made before any group of more than 100 starting on October 1st. So you heard it here first.
The purpose of today's public hearing is to have an opportunity for many of us to sit down and listen once again to the -- and there's also a rule about cell phones, even for legislators, we won't go into that. But in any event, the purpose of this public hearing is to respond to a concern that emerged during the summer, in the budget related special session, when some of the concepts that are before us today were being discussed and there was an interest on the part of many legislators to have an opportunity to have more of a hearing process on these ideas. So that's why we are here today. I think most people here are aware that in two or three or four weeks, there's a willingness to allow some, if not all of these concepts to be debated in the House and in the Senate and it's in preparation for that, in essence, that we're here today.
We've been joined by some invited guests, some out-of-state experts, so to speak, and now will have an opportunity to speak first. Following that group, we have state agency heads and elected officials and then members of the public who would like to testify.
In a moment, I'll introduce our three invited guests, but I didn't know if any of the other Chairs would like to have a moment to say anything or the ranking members.
In any event, all of you should have a copy of the bill in front of you. It is a compilation of a variety of different concepts, all intended to address the issue of prison overcrowding and public safety and together with some prepared testimony from some of our witnesses here today, there's also a compilation of some recent newspaper editorials here in Connecticut together with a chart that's provided by Judge Gist of Texas which shows the relationship, at least in Texas, between funding for alternative forms of punishment and the number of technical probation violations in Texas over a number of years. Actually, an interesting chart.
So, with that, let me introduce our three invited speakers. They come here courtesy of the Council of State Governments and the Vera Institute of Justice, both of which are engaged in projects like this throughout the nation.
First, let me introduce Michael Jacobson who is currently a Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, but prior to that, he served in a number of roles in New York City as Commissioner of Corrections under Mayor Giuliani and also as the head of Probation and Parole Services and prior to that was the Deputy Budget Director for the City of New York. So he has a variety of expertise which he'll contribute today.
Also, is Barbara Tombs who is currently the Executive Director of the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission. She took that position just in the last month or so. Prior to that, for nine years, she had been the head of the Sentencing Guidelines in the State of Kansas and she is widely recognized as a national expert on this whole issue of managing criminal justice decisions, not just addressing prison overcrowding, but also making sure that the penalties that are imposed make sense compared to one another and ensuring that the system has credibility. And so, you'll hear from Barbara Tombs.
And finally, Judge Larry Gist, the Honorable Larry Gist who is an elected Judge from Beaumont, Texas. Is that right, Judge? And he's been in that position for, I believe, twenty years, is that right? Thirty years and prior to that, was elected District Attorney down there. And Beaumont, if you don't know, is between Houston and Louisiana, is that right? And Judge Gist has been the preeminent criminal judge in the State of Texas working with the Legislature, working with his colleagues, working with prosecutors to effect some important changes in the Texas system, which he'll describe in a moment, but the goal was to address both prison overcrowding and to ensure there was enough space to confine violent offenders for their full sentences.
So with that, I believe Dr. Jacobson is going to go first and after each of the three makes a relatively short presentation, we'll have an opportunity for questions and then we'll get onto to the agency heads and elected officials. So, Mike, welcome to Connecticut again.
MICHAEL P. JACOBSON, PH.D.: Thank you, it's great to be here. Good afternoon, Senators and Representatives and thank you for inviting me to talk for a couple of minutes on what is, for every state and certainly for Connecticut, an incredibly and important issue. I thought maybe what I'd do in my few minutes is just provide a couple of minutes of national context and background about similar issues around the country and then just spend a couple of minutes talking a little bit about some of the technical violation issues that have been raised in this discussion that you folks have been having in the last few months.
One of the things that's characterized in the Connecticut prison system, certainly over the last couple of years, is you are one of the fastest growing prison systems in the country. You're, obviously, not remotely one of the biggest, but in terms of percentage growth, you're right up there. There are very few systems that have grown more than Connecticut in the last couple of years. You've grown somewhere around 8% and that's more than twice the national average.
So in recent years, you are growing at a pretty hefty rate and that's true of your budget, as well as just the size of your system itself.
In terms of your overall incarceration rate, you have a rate that's lower than the national average. You do, however, have the highest incarceration rate among all the northeastern states and in terms of the spread between the incarceration rate for Whites and Blacks, the difference, you have one of the biggest spreads in the United States. Your incarceration rate for Blacks is approximately 13 to 14 times your incarceration rate for Whites. That's about -- the whole country, obviously, has this issue. Connecticut's not alone here, except you are about twice, more or less, twice the national average in terms of that spread.
You also have -- for violent felons, you have some of the longest sentences in the country. They serve some of the highest percentages of their sentence and your sentences for violent offenders have also grown significantly. So you keep folks who are convicted of violent crimes in for an exceptionally long time.
Let me say a couple of words about one of the things that also characterizes your system that, again, the rest of the country is struggling with and that's the whole issue of technical violators. You have, like most states, not all, but most, you have a large portion of both your admissions and your average daily population in your state prisons that are there for technical violations, condition violations of their community-based sentences, primarily probation, but you also have a few other community-based programs that people can technically violate. And when I talk about technical violations, I'm not talking about violations, I'm not talking about people who come back to prison mainly from probation. We're talking about with new arrests and new convictions. I'm talking about people who come back in because they've been sent back for breaking one or more of the rules of their community supervision.
You have, more or less, on any given day, somewhere around 2,500 probation violators in your system out of somewhere between 15,000 and 15,500 sentenced prisoners. It's about 15 to 20 percent, depending on when you look at it, of your average daily population on any day being there, not for the commission of a new crime, but for a technical violation. That's very high, not -- certainly not the highest in the country. Your 18 to 20 percent admissions of technical violators to your system is also fairly high, not the highest in the country, you'll be happy or sad, depending on your point of view, to know that California has about 70% of its admissions coming in as technical violators. So states have a variety of experiences here, but your 20% figure coming in and your 15 to 20 percent figure of your average daily population is high and just in pure budget terms, it's probably costing you somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million a year to house those folks. And the reason that I like to concentrate on that, at least initially when you are, as you are, starting to look at whose in your system and thinking about alternatives, is that that is a good group to start to look at for a couple of reasons.
The other thing I should have said quickly that characterizes your state is that you keep those technical violators in your system comparatively to a lot of states for a very long time. They're in for 12 to 14 months, on average. That's a long time to keep, on a national basis, to keep folks in for technical violations. It's costing you a lot of money. There are, I and others would submit, a number of other options, a number of other ways you can handle those folks, at least some segment of them. There's clearly going to be some who belong in prison, who should go right to prison, but there are obviously some, when we look at whose in there and for what reasons, that could be both better served in the community with targeted interventions, programmatic interventions that would not only free up some prison space for you, save you some money but, I and a number of my colleagues, would argue, would also buy you more and not less public safety.
One of the reasons that this state and a number of other states have so many technical violators flowing into their prisons is because of these huge funding discrepancies you see between community-based corrections and institutional corrections. So probation, for instance in this state, is in the same position that community-based agencies are in in a lot of states which they are resource starved, they have very little money, but they always have enough money to know who is violating probation and the political and organizational position that those agencies are put in is that they know whose violating, even if the violations are relatively minor, irregular reporting to some degree, or some initial degree of drug use. Those agencies are all faced with a very stark decision because of their lack of resources and that is essentially either to ignore those violations and not do anything, which from a supervision point of view is unacceptable, or if you have nothing else at your disposal, to use the most punitive, most expensive sanction you have, which is prison and if you put those agencies and those probation officers in the position of doing nothing or using the starkest, most punitive, most expensive sanction you have, you will get people coming into prison because they're not going to ignore violations and violations should not be ignored.
But there are a whole series of other things you can do with people who are violating other than initially start them out with a twelve to fourteen month stint in a prison system that I would argue is certainly both more cost effective, but would also buy you more public safety and less recidivism in the long run. So it's a good area to concentrate on. It's an area where you can make major gains, both budgetary gains and gains in public safety, safety of the citizens in Connecticut and I commend you all for at least your initial looking at this issue and obviously I'll be available for more questions.
REP. LAWLOR: If we could reserve the questions until all the presentations are done, that would be great. So, Barbara Tombs.
BARBARA TOMBS: Good afternoon, Chairmen and members of the committee. I thank you for the opportunity to testify in front of you.
Representative Lawlor referred to me as an expert in my area. I would like to refer to me as a survivor. Having gone through numerous sentencing reforms, it is very difficult because you are always trying to balance that issue of resource allocations with public safety and Kansas basically passed a determinate sentencing guidelines act in 1993 and what that did was -- part of it was a result of a federal lawsuit against the State for conditions of confinement, overcrowding in our prisons. As a response to that lawsuit, they enacted the Guidelines which was a determinate mandatory sentencing model which had mandatory post-release or parole upon release and a 15% good time. So it was pretty structured. It had an incarceration line where everybody above the line went to prison, everybody below the line was to go to a non-prison community-based sanction. And that was to allow for the increase in sentencing that we were dealing with more serious crimes because we were going through the "tough on crime" phase on point and wanted to make sure the people that were serving the sentences that were imposed. So if you got a 15 year sentence, you didn't get paroled at 2-1/2 years, you did 15.
So in order to increase that sentence length, the tradeoff was to do the non-prison sanctions for the lower level property crimes and the State constructed a new prison at that point. However, as so often happens in legislative actions, the funding was not consistently nor adequately available for the non-prison group below the incarceration lines, the community-based punishment options. And as a result, the State began to experience what this state is experiencing now, the large number of condition violators coming in.
In fact, in 2000, our nation's rate showed that 71% of the people coming to Kansas prisons were coming in as condition violators either of probation or post-release supervision. So we've had an extraordinarily high number. They were staying on the average close to a year and then being released, going on post-release supervision, violating the conditions of their post-release supervision, coming back in. So we were incarcerating people who we had originally stated were offenses that were lower level, that should be dealt with in the community, not once, but twice and allocating a lot of resources at an incarceration cost of about $21,000 a year for these offenders.
And so it was time for us to look at our system.
The Sentencing Commission in Kansas is, by statute, obligated to bring forth to the Legislature options to reduce prison population when the population projections indicated the State will exceed capacity within two years, which is a normal construction phase for a new prison. So at that point, we were going to exceed capacity. We brought forth a proposition which was known as S.B. 323, which reduced no prison sentences in the State of Kansas, but what it did was look at that violation, the condition violation population and we modified the period of supervision. When the guidelines passed, it was depending on the severity of the crime, 12 and 24 months. In 1995, (inaudible) years after the guidelines had been enacted, the Legislature had decided that it wasn't long enough and increased it to 24 and 36 months even though no one had been released from prison yet under the guidelines.
So we had to go back and we reinstated the original periods. We made mandatory placement in community corrections, which is a type of supervision that is somewhat more intense than standard probation necessary prior to revocation, so the person who is on community supervision under probation before they could be revoked and sent back to prison, they were moved to community correction which was more intensive supervision, more programming, those types of things to try to deal with that person and if that failed, then they were sent to prison.
We also did away with the post-release supervision for the probation violators. Their punishment for violating their probation was incarceration. By putting them -- incarcerating and then putting them back on supervision again it was like punishing twice for an offense which was a condition violation.
It did not make sense nor did it lend to the most usefulness of our resources.
By doing this, we were able to save between 400 and 700 prison beds, which bought us another two years of not constructing prisons, even though we were not in a budget crisis at that point, these were all options that could be done relatively cheap. When we packaged the bill and we balanced it out with some other issues that were going on in the State, we needed more beds for serious offenders. So in this bill, we also funded 100 what we call maximum security beds for our serious long time offenders.
We also put $1.6 million into community corrections because if we were going to take these violators and move them from probation to community corrections prior to revocation, then we needed to have adequate funding in community corrections. And we put another $6.2 million in day reporting centers for post-release violators, condition violators on the back end so that when they went out, if there were problems, rather than revoke them back to prison, they were sent to the day reporting centers.
So this, again, was cost effective rather than construction of a new prison.
And as I said, when we passed this bill, we told them it was going to be a short term fix to a long term problem and so 2003 comes around and we are again at a crisis with our prison population. We are within 98.9% capacity. We are almost -- at the same time, the State was facing, much like Connecticut, they were facing a $750 million budget shortfall, about 16.7% of our state general fund. There was no money in the State and we had no prison beds and our projection showed that the population was going to increase.
We went back again, under the assumption and talking with the Legislature, and again, there was a very strong feeling they did not want to reduce sentences because there is the adage that soft of crime, but how do we deal with this problem and not compromise public safety?
When we looked at the big form in 1999 or 2001, we looked at just the non-drug offenses. We went back to the drug offenses and took a very serious look at those and found out that we had a large proportion, about 1,255 admissions a year for possession only and possession only is a probation sentence in Kansas originally, but our prisoners were coming in because of the high number of revocations for this group because there were no programs available in the community. When they were incarcerated because of budget cuts, the Department of Corrections had virtually cut out all of our programming. So we were warehousing these offenders for anywhere between 24 and 27 months and then putting them back out on the streets with the same problem they came in with and they would violate their conditions of post-release supervision, come back in, do another 180 days and go back out.
And so we were spending, we figured out, over $30,000 on an offender who had the same problem coming out of prison that he did coming in, sometimes even better access of knowledge of where to get better drugs.
So we decided to approach this a little bit differently. We put a bill in which was S.B. 123 which mandated treatment for offenders who were non-violent in nature and we were very clear in our definition of non-violent. They could have no prior person crimes. They could have no prior convictions for trafficking, manufacturing. Their current offense could be nothing but a possession, meaning that they had a substance abuse problem.
And then also there was an accountability thing that if they went to treatment and they dropped out of treatment or they chose not to cooperate with treatment because it wasn't like California and Arizona which had propositions. It was mandatory, they didn't have the option, they had to go to the treatment. If they dropped out of the treatment, or did not pass or they failed in treatment, then they had to do the entire underlying prison sentence with no time credited for the time they were in treatment, which was, again, the hammer that we felt we needed to have so that they didn't see treatment as just an option of getting out of prison, they could actually end up with more time in the criminal justice system if they didn't cooperate.
In addition, we started using assessments. Actually, when we talk about non-violent, low level property offenders, that's a very ambiguous term, really. What is a non-violent offender? And so all of our offenders are assessed using either the LSRI which is an assessment tool that talks about their chance of re-offending or their probability of re-offending and then we also use the substance abuse assessments to understand their levels of their substance abuse problem and that determines how long they're under supervision.
Their period is up to 18 months. So we gave them an adequate treatment. So the 30 or 60 days, which so many of the treatment programs do and has a very low rate of success or recidivism there.
We brought that forward to the Legislature with a price tag. It's going to cost them $9 million because we were going to fund treatment adequately, meaning they were going to have the continuum of treatment where they had assessment, they had the ability to have inpatient, outpatient, they had after care, they had follow-up, they had auxiliary services because so much of what we see with drug offenders is if you just treat the problem and not some of the surrounding problems, their chances of recidivism is very high.
So we were at a point of $9.2 million cost for this program or the construction of a new prison. The construction of a new prison was anywhere from $17.1 million to $14.4 million, depending on how many cell houses. And there was an additional $14,000 to $25,000 a year to operate this prison. So the actual savings was somewhat limited. What was very interesting in the whole process with our Legislature is this bill started out as a bed savings bill and we were looking at ways to save prison beds, but as we spent more time looking at this issue, we realized that it was the right thing to do, that what we were doing currently in our system was not working and we were having a direct impact on the cost of incarceration, but there were so many costs to the State that were not even considered before we looked at this bill. There were costs of people with medical costs associated with drug addiction. There was welfare to families where they have one or both parent incarcerated because of addiction. There were just numerous associated costs and so, what brought people around wasn't so much it saved prison beds, it was that -- as one Senator said on the floor, the definition of "insanity" is doing over and over again what you know doesn't work. And so by putting this forward, we were addressing that limited population and believe me, the bill did not go without controversy. There was a lot of concern whether we were soft on crime and many of the original provisions of the bill when we reintroduced it were stripped away, but the basic core of the bill, which dealt with adequate treatment and necessary treatment for this offender group, was saved. So we are looking at anywhere from 200 beds the first year to 500 beds over a ten year period which, again, will buy the State some more time to figure out what it's going to do with its long term serious population.
So those are some of the aspects. The problems we had were very similar to what you're facing, but balancing that necessary funding -- one of the things you have to be wary about and I can't caution you enough, if you implement reforms that say we're going to save beds here and there, however, you don't fund adequately or continually the alternatives to those constructions of beds and then the whole thing falls apart, which is what Kansas did in the very beginning. We did not put the money up front to the community-based programs that we should have. It resulted in a high revocation and put us into a crisis. Luckily, they reassessed and they are now beginning to fund those community alternative programs at an adequate level to avoid the unnecessary construction.
And we have nothing against building more prison beds for the right types of people, but what we had to look at was for the people we had in our system, were they the people that we were afraid of or people we were mad at? And most of the time, condition violators are people we're mad at because they won't follow the rules and they violate and so forth.
So, I think making that distinction and looking at your population and trying to sort that out and make sure that you are assessing them, both long term and short term, will help you come up with some good policy decisions.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Barbara. Judge Gist.
JUDGE LARRY GIST: Good afternoon, everybody. I bring you greetings from Texas, the Lone Star State. It's a real pleasure to be here with you and share some of the things that we suffered through that might be of some value, I hope, to you as you address the issues and the problems that you're addressing that we had to address.
About ten years ago we had 35,000 people in the Texas prison system in about 15 prisons. They were full. We got involved with the federal courts and things like that and to make a long story short, we passed two bond issues supported overwhelmingly by the people and built our prison system up to where we got 114 prisons now and 160,000 inmates, all that in ten years. And guess what? We're full again.
So, the problems that precipitated all of this at the beginning, we're now having to readdress and I wanted to explain to you some of the things that we've done that I hope will be of some value to you, both from the mistakes we made and what I hope are some of the successes we've attained or are in the process of attaining.
The first thing I suppose everybody knows, Texas is tough, we're Texas tough, boy. We don't put up with nothing. We're going to put you in prison and shame on you. You know, go away and disappear, never to be seen again. Well, that's what most people think about Texas and honestly, it was pretty much true for a while. We started looking at the idea that we had to be tough on crime, but we also had to be smart on crime and it was the smart part that we were overlooking. We kept putting everybody in prison and when they got out, they came back to prison again. We really weren't doing very much in terms of keeping that person as not a risk to our public.
So everything we did in trying to address our Legislature, our Governor over the last, say ten years, eight or ten years, has had to have and I would urge that you have this as your number one priority, public safety. If you don't have that as your number one goal, forgetting about money and all the other considerations you all are dealing with, if what you do, no matter how it feels good, if it doesn't enhance public safety, you'll be criticized and it will ultimately fail.
So can we have public safety without locking everybody up? The chart that you have shows -- it's on the front page, I think, of that thing you all passed out. It shows -- we set up, we did a number of things. And I would encourage you to think about some of these things. It is easy for a legislature to dictate what should happen in the criminal justice system. You all make the rules and the statutes and you can pretty much say what you want to say. If that is dictatorial and forceful, at least in my state, we zealously guard our independence as judges and prosecutors and players in the game. We don't want to be forced to do something even if it's something that you think is a good idea.
What we did was to bring in to the solution all the players in the game and I would encourage you to do that. We brought in the judges, the prosecutors, the probation people, the prison officials, everybody, the victims' groups, everybody, and said look, we've got a problem. What do you think we can do to solve it? And what that did, right easily on, was it let those folks buy into these ultimate solutions that came up. Instead of being resistant to it, they were a part of it and therefore supported the ultimate outcome that was reached by our legislature.
As you will see in that chart, one of the things we did was to set up a technical violations committee to address that, to look into it. Why is this happening? Why are we sending all these technical violators to prison? Is that working? If we send them to prison, does it make them less inclined to recidivate? What's it costing us? What alternatives do we have?
And what we found out was, if you look at that chart, as the funding for probation went down, the technical violator increase went directly up, almost in direct proportion to it. And the reason for that is not too hard to figure out. You give me less options as a sentencing judge to do something other than to send somebody to prison, and you leave me with almost no choice. And that's what we recognized as the Legislature kept taking money away from the community corrections process and putting it into the prisons because that was tough, tough on crime. But what it did was just defeat the whole purpose of that program as we were trying to get to it.
I would urge you to focus, as we did, on two primary groups of offenders. If you try and address the big problem all at once, you're going to be very frustrated and probably not very successful. We started off, as Barbara mentioned to you, one of the groups that they talked about are drug offenders, low level drug offenders and property offenders and we addressed the mental health, folks that have mental health issues.
I don't know how it is in Connecticut, but in Texas we made a conscious decision to de-institutionalize people with mental health problems. All those people were turned out. We don't even have a mental hospital as we used to have it. Those people were put back in the community with little care, no money allocated for local mental health resources. And so the bulk of them not having families or somebody to care for them, stopped using their drugs that they were prescribed and turned to some low level criminal offenses. You can see them in any park, in any big city at the bus stations. They are people that are just there, they're just floating around. And they tend up to be in our system and they cost us a bunch, a bunch of money.
Is there a way to deal with those people better than putting them in the penitentiary? Please understand what I'm telling you now. I'm still Texas tough. We want our bad guys, our violent people, the folks that continue to break the law, we want them in prison and we want them in prison forever. I'm talking about the lower level non-violent people that you might be able to work with in some other way and if you concentrate on those two groups, you can find some solutions and I'm going to mention to you some of the things we've done that are starting to turn out to be successful.
Our prison population is slowly going down. We think it's going down because the incidents of technical violations is going down. Is that because the Legislature made us do it? No. It's because we brought in the judges and told them and taught them. We're all elected, by the way, so whatever one of us does, you see it on the ballot or with your next opponent. We don't want to be seen as soft on crime, but we want to be sensible about it. And with some of these alternatives things, you get a whole lot more bang for your buck. The recidivism rate is -- some of these probation programs is phenomenal especially some of the drug court programs. I understood you all did away with yours. I don't know why and hope you would take another look at it. We have had a phenomenal success with the drug courts.
Anyway, back to the story. There's a bunch of literature out there, a bunch of experts that can statistically tell you what works, what programs work for what kind of people. It's easy to find. It's just most of us didn't go looking for them. We thought when God appeared to me in a dream and made me a judge, I knew everything all of a sudden, you know. Not so, not so. There's a whole wealth of knowledge out there that if you look at it, you can see that it can be demonstrated, scientifically demonstrated to you that if you follow this path, you're going to get this percentage of reduction in crime and a tentative recidivism rate.
So go out and take a look at the What Works Program. The things that don't work, but feel good, we have eliminated in Texas. We've looked at them and said this is a wonderful thing, feels good, "hug-a-thug" kind of a deal, but does it reduce crime? Does it reduce crime? Can we prove that it reduces it crime? No. We couldn't do it. It's out, it's out, it's gone. Some sacred cow, some things that have been existence for years, gone because we couldn't demonstrate they achieved what we wanted to happen.
If you're talking about construction of facilities, prisons, I don't know how it works here, but we had basically one kind of prison. It had eight foot walls, thick and guard towers and all that sort of stuff and it cost a fortune. Well, a lot of these people don't need to be in that kind of prison. If you're going to have to lock them up, there are a lot of prison designs and a lot of prison models that can be constructed at a whole lot less cost that achieve the same problem.
For instance, we've got 5,000 people in the Texas prison system that are there doing time for a felony drunk driving. By and large, when those people aren't drunk and driving, they're pretty good old boys. They work and do regular old stuff. They're not a big threat to hurt anybody in prison or to breakout. So we're trying to structure prisons to handle that -- for instance, that type of person. We don't want them out, but we don't have to build an eight foot wall to keep them in and have all the attendant expenses that are with that.
So, think about it. Trustee camps are something we've had enormous success with where people that are within a short period of time serving their sentence and either getting out after serving their sentence or going out on parole, not much of a threat to run off because they're committing another crime and will be back. Building trustee camps out in the public parks in the middle of nowhere and having those people work clearing trails, repairing roads, doing that kind of stuff, it costs almost nothing, relatively speaking compared to a prison cost. They're confined, they're guarded, they're watched. You don't have any bars and wires and stuff, but it does achieve that.
One of the things that I think is critical that everybody in the criminal justice system realizes is that what we tend to do and what legislators and I'm sure you all feel the same way, I know most of our judges felt the same way, you want to come up with punishments that would change us, that would effect us. I know that driving down the street -- if I have a police car driving behind me, my heart is just pounding, oh my God, oh my God, what have I done, what am I going to do? And I know the worse thing that could happen to me is a fine, but I still get upset, it scares me, I'm fearful of the consequences of the law and so are most of you all. Well guess what? A lot of criminals, especially the low level offenders don't think like me and you think. And let me give you an example. We had probationers in my area a while back when they weren't reporting like they should or something, we did something we used to call get their attention. We get their attention. We grab them up and throw them in jail for a couple of weeks and say, you'd better do right or bad things are going to happen.
Got plaques, editorials, awards like you can't believe, tough on law and order. Guess what I was doing? When you realize it, I was taking a guy that's living in a cardboard box under an underpass, I'm putting him in an air conditioned jail with three hot meals a day, a shower, a color t.v., and I'm punishing him, right? I'm not. And why did people love it though? Because it would punish us, it would punish me. You put me in jail for a week or two, I guarantee you it would change my conduct and it would change yours.
So get out of that mode for a second and look at what will effectively impact a sanction on somebody other than something that hurts your public and your treasury. There are ways to do that. To hurt them, to give them some degree of a sanction, it doesn't hurt you at the same time.
One of the things that you've got to take a look at is things like home confinement, house arrest, curfews. Well, we've been very successful with that. Now, the public initially is going to say well, boy aren't you all tough on crime, you're making this guy stay at home or be in after eight o'clock at night. But guess what? You can't do much bad if you're not in your house -- unless you get out on the street, you can't get in a whole lot of trouble. The recidivism rate goes down. The compliance rate goes up. It costs us nothing. Zero. You don't have to spend fortunes on these things, okay. Most of this stuff is free that I'm talking to you about.
The police have been wonderful companions in enforcing curfews. They drive around on patrol. It doesn't take them anything if they know or ask could you stop by so and so's house every day or every other day? Just knock on the door and see if he's there at six o'clock. You'd be surprised what that does to compliance. The police officers, our police officers love it. It makes them a part of trying to keep crime down.
One of our judges made everybody that violated that had trouble with drugs, the sale of drugs, get a highway patrol haircut. What's that mean? What is that going to do? Well, you can't sell drugs on our streets with a highway patrol haircut. You just cannot do it. I mean it ruined their career. Now, that costs nothing. Okay, do you see what I'm saying to you?
Wrist bands. In my community, certain offenders are assigned to certain color writs bands. We tell the people in the town these wrist bands mean something. The police know it. On the inside of the thing is written certain crucial things like they have a curfew or they're not supposed to be in a bar or whatever it may be. Well, what that's done is it's turned our whole population into probation officers because, for instance, the red ones are people that have got probation for some kind of alcohol intoxication driving offense. When that guy walks into a bar with the red band and the bartenders know them with the dram shop liability laws, they're not serving that sucker, okay. He's not getting a drink in my bar. So it reduces the temptations, if you will, for these people. Green bands are the thieves. When a guy walks into a store with a green band, that store owner knows that fellow is on probation for stealing. Maybe he'll watch him a little closer. Cost zero, okay, zero. A great help in enforcing.
The day reporting centers, you heard about that. If a guy where I come from doesn't have a job, he comes and works for Texas every day. That's basically the way we do it. You can go work and make some money and get a job, support your family or you can do nothing and come down here and work for free for Texas and we take you out and work you on roads or cleaning up ditches or whatever the thing may be. It doesn't take long for those people to realize that it makes more sense to do it the way good people do it than to continue to lose money and be out in the hot sun and all that sort of stuff.
Community service is a thing that goes with that. It's a wonderful tool for the public, they love to see offenders out there doing things. It helps improve the quality of the community. You've got to be careful, we do, about not taking jobs away from anybody, that's a very sensitive thing, but there's always things to be done that nobody can afford to do and would not be done but for the access of some of these folks paying back. Specialized caseloads where you have probation officers that have a particular kind of person that they're watching, it improves the quality and improves the sanctions. The mental health caseloads, I was telling you about that. Family violence, very important, growing unfortunately, a growing part of our problem.
The drug offenders. That's -- I don't know, drugs probably account for virtually all the crime if you really think about it. I know in Texas prison they took a self appraisal study of everybody in prison a few years ago and said do you have a drug problem? Eighty percent of our inmates in prison said they had a drug problem, a serious drug problem. And the other twenty percent lied, I believe, because it's just a major force in whatever.
Now, one of the important things that we have to do at our level is to get these sanctions, you're going to use these things short of prison or confinement. They have to be swift. So many of these folks -- me and you put our hand on a hot thing and we pull it back and you say, I'm not going to touch that again, that will burn me. So many of our offenders do not learn from that and so the closer you bring the sanction to the offense, the more they can associate those things together and better understand if I do wrong, I'm going to pay a penalty for it.
We had a boot camp in our Texas penitentiary when we were under court orders and -- federal court orders. It failed miserably and one of the reasons was you couldn't have an instantaneous sanction. Run like the military. The Sergeant says don't move, the guy moves. The Sergeant says give me ten pushups. The guy says I want a hearing. Well, they have a right to a hearing. So, later that day or the next day they have a hearing and the hearing officer says you've got to do the ten pushups. I want to appeal. So he appeals. And by the time it gets to the top, you've got a week or so gone by when the final guy says do the ten pushups. This guy cannot connect the ten pushups to not obeying what the Sergeant said.
So we've got to (inaudible) this stuff up and get it imposed as soon as you can after there is a violation for it to have the greatest impact.
Self audits. Our Legislature has told us -- well, let me back up right quick and tell you because I'm running out of time, I apologize. I talk kind of slow. If you all would give me extra time because I talk slower than the rest of the people.
The Legislature, our Legislature this January faced an $11 billion deficit, $11 billion and with a no new taxes pledge. So we had to cut $11 billion out of the budget. Part of that money came from probation. They virtually eliminated all state funding for probation. We went to them and said -- that's what that chart shows -- that's fine, you can take away probation as an alternative, but you'd better save some bucks to build some prisons because that's all that's left if you take away our resources. And guess what? We got full funding restored for probation. We talked to and educated the people that could see, if you don't think about anything but money, forget about public welfare and good and all that, just think of bucks, it's cheaper to give us community sanctions than prison sanctions for the right offender. I can't not over-stress that. It's got to be the right kind of person.
Diversion courts. You can handle a lot of stuff outside the criminal justice system if you can work it here, I don't know if you can, but we have systems in every county in Texas where if you're a first offender and meet the criteria, low level drug offender, --
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JUDGE LARRY GIST: -- this is handled outside the judicial system. It saves a court appointed lawyer, usually for that expense. And if they successfully complete this -- ours is two years of tough, tough stuff, then the case is not filed. If they violate, they come into the system again and are prosecuted. But it is a very, very inexpensive and a very, very successful program if you pick the right people.
The last thing is our Legislature passed a bill this last session regarding early termination of probation. We could always early terminate, a judge could always let you out early, let you off early. This is mandatory. It requires that once a guy has done a third of his time, a judge must let them off probation unless the judge articulates why it would be unfair, a danger to the public not to do so.
We're looking to see how that's going to come, but that will -- see, what that does is reduce the caseloads. Our probation officers across Texas have 200-250 cases. You can't supervise anybody with that number. They're bean counters. You do it with a clerk or maybe a computer card even, save that price. So by reducing the level, our probation officers, a third of our probation cost is paid by probation fees. Our probation chiefs don't like this law because they're going to lose two-thirds of their money and this is a sick way of thinking, but it's rational -- you all know about money. I want to keep the good guys onto the very end. Why? Because they pose no problems and they pay. They pay. We get all their money. So the Legislature is wrestling now with a way to implement this law and not deprive that departments of that lost revenue for the sole purpose of keeping those people under supervision.
I hope that you all take some interest in some of these things and like all of us here, we're here to help you if we can, not to preach to you or to tell you what to do. We're going in the right direction, I think, and I hope you all will too and we're all willing to talk to you about anything that's on your mind.
REP. LAWLOR: Thanks, Judge. Representative Green and I wanted to ask you a few questions about highway patrol haircuts. What is exactly does it look like?
JUDGE LARRY GIST: It looks a lot like yours.
REP. LAWLOR: Any other questions from members of the committee for any of the three panelists? Representative Farr.
REP. FARR: Yes, actually I had one for Mike.
REP. LAWLOR: Why don't you come up and save a little time. There's a third chair there, Barbara, if you want to take it.
REP. FARR: One of the problems in doing comparisons between states is everybody has a different system of criminal justice. And Connecticut has very lean -- has a very permissive system of plea bargaining. So in Connecticut, you can go in and be charged with something, substitute another charge, and if you keep statistics on why people are in jail, it doesn't necessarily reflect what happened initially.
So you mentioned the violations of condition. It's been my experience in Connecticut there are a lot of people that get arrested for other charges. They're also then charged with violation of probation and then the plea bargain is we'll substitute the violation of probation, drop the other charge, now you're in on a "technical violation" which is violation of probation.
I don't know if you've looked at any way to sort of sort this out to see to what extent Connecticut really does have a large percentage of technical violations that didn't have, as an underlying charge, the charges of some criminal charge.
MICHAEL P. JACOBSON, PH.D.: It's a very good point and it's a point, in fact, that's applicable to every state because you're correct, you do need to do more when you actually get into the sort of guts, the details of this issue than simply make a distinction between a violation for a new conviction and a technical violation because in every state prosecutors and/or judges will sort of wrap up some new crimes and dispose of them as a technical violation. So they're not really technical.
My sense of the Connecticut numbers, like in most states, is that that is certainly there, but when you begin to get into these numbers I think you'll generally find two things. You will get a big number that just pure technicals. That doesn't mean they're not serious technicals. You can have one dirty urine. You could have twenty-five dirty urines. You could come in on a Tuesday and you were supposed to come in on a Monday or you could be a fleeing felon and not come in for three years. So there are different levels of technicals. But you'll always get a big chunk that are pure technicals and even with the new crimes, you'll find a good deal are low level, of that sort of drug possession crimes that still might be applicable for other alternatives other than prison even with this new arrest and then sometimes you'll find folks with very serious charges that, for a variety of reasons, get wrapped up in a new violation, which is why I would never say, either here or in any state, you have 2,500 condition violators in your prisons, none of them should be there. That's obviously ridiculous. A good portion of them probably should be there, but I would say as a general rule, you have a significant percentage that don't have to be there at all, at least initially, and you have a very good percentage that don't need to be there for twelve to fourteen months. There's a lot of reasons to put people back into prison or jail for technical violations. A lot of it is because probation officers and judges want to get people's attention, want to grab them, and you can do that in a whole lot less time than twelve to fourteen months.
But you're certainly right to point out it's not as if everyone in there has only missed reporting for a day and they're being throw in as a technical violator. It is more complicated than that, but with 18% of your admissions being technical violators, I guarantee you you're going to get a good number for whom other alternatives are appropriate.
REP. FARR: Well, I just make the other point. To me, the thing you don't want, you want to change the system, but not take away the ability to put somebody in on a technical violation because ultimately when you have somebody, if you give them ten or twelve chances, and they simply can't comply, ultimately the only sanction you have to get them off the streets because otherwise they're going to end up usually escalating their behavior into something far worse.
MICHAEL P. JACOBSON, PH.D.: Absolutely. What I and a number of other people would argue for is you always want the ability to put someone in as a technical violator. And for some of those technical violators, you want that ability right from the get go because of the nature of the technical violation, but what I would argue makes more sense, both from a purely public safety point of view and it happens to also save you a lot of money, is that you have a range of alternatives, short of prison, for a lot of these violations. And it might turn out, for some of them who, when you put them in a day center, they might fail that. And then if you put them on house arrest and electronic monitoring, they may fail that. Well, then it's time for that person to go to prison, but for a lot of these folks, you don't need to start them out with twelve to fourteen months of prison. You could start them out lower and always reserve the right to work your way into prison, but a lot of these programs, especially the ones that the Judge and Barbara are talking about, will cut your recidivism rates and you will find that you will get fewer people going into prison because you're just going to get less recidivism in the first place.
REP. FARR: I think what you're describing is a graduated sanction program and what you need in a graduated sanction program, however, is always to have a sanction and the worst thing you can do is what I've seen in what parole used to do. You talk to them -- well, one of the conditions is you don't use drugs. Well, how many people use drugs on parole? Well, everybody. Well, what do you do when you work with them when they do it? And then eventually you violate them. Well, if everybody knows that you can use drugs, they're all going to use it and it's very difficult then to change somebody's conduct.
MICHAEL P. JACOBSON, PH.D.: Right.
REP. FARR: And I think what's missing is we describe it as the Department of Correction in the intent, is to change somebody's conduct and to a large extent, that's where the failure is.
MICHAEL P. JACOBSON, PH.D.: Right. And you have to -- the last thing I'll say here is that it is absolutely important to react to violations of community supervision. They can't be ignored. It's simply that violations encompass a huge range of activities and behaviors and you shouldn't just have one reaction, which is fourteen months in prison. That's a reaction that might make sense for some portion of those populations, but for a lot of folks, you don't have to have that reaction, but you always have to have some reaction and some sanction.
REP. FARR: Lastly, we created in New Haven a program where we told people they were on probation on the condition they not use drugs. If they tested positive, they were immediately put in a halfway house, but it was only for two days. And that was the instant sanction plus the very short nature of the sanction. So that did result in behavior modification. They didn't have to go through the hearing and wait for somebody to violate probation six months from now.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Senator Newton.
SEN. NEWTON: Thank you. Just a couple of questions. One being that right now Connecticut ships prisoners out-of-state. Does the State of Texas ship its prisoners out-of-state, to your knowledge?
JUDGE LARRY GIST: We do not.
SEN. NEWTON: And would it be because of some of the things that you all have instituted to take those low level offenders, as we might call them, substance abuse prisoners and the mentally ill, has that been some of the reasons why the State of Texas doesn't ship prisoners?
JUDGE LARRY GIST: It's a little too early to tell, Senator. We built enough capacity to accommodate what was perceived to be our maximum limit. Nobody ever thought we were going to get there. Well, we got there.
Now, the numbers are starting to come down. It's too early for me to tell you absolutely that some of these things are causing that, but the belief is that that is what's causing it and if that occurs, we are even talking now about having -- we would love to have some of you guys come to Texas. We're going to have some empty prisons. I'm talking about work. And we can make you a deal, okay. I mean we can -- but no, we don't ship any out and, in fact, the juvenile system, these things have worked in the juvenile system so well, that they just closed a 1,000 bed juvenile prison and converted it over to an adult prison. So they do work.
SEN. NEWTON: The other question, you talked about the Legislature of Texas. What authority did they give the judges that maybe Connecticut has not allowed its judges to do? I would be curious to know.
JUDGE LARRY GIST: I don't know about Connecticut. Sorry, I'm unfamiliar with it. I can't speak to that. I know that because we're all independently elected and responsible to our area, that judges feel and prosecutors feel incredibly independent and relish that. And the Legislature, quite often, -- the statute, our probation statute says it's the intent of the Legislature to place wholly in the hands of the judiciary, the determination of who should get probation, under what circumstances, and what the conditions of probation ought to be. That was -- that's the Preamble to our statutes.
What follows is eighteen single spaced pages of things that the Legislature, for some reason or another, thought that this ought to happen or ought not to happen. So there's a lot of constraints there. I mean, I can't do this for this guy because that guy -- somebody like that did something bad somewhere and it prompted a legislative reaction to it. We resist and ask for, each session, to please reduce the controls and with a third branch of government -- I don't know if anybody mentioned that to you all, but we've got a duty too to a public responsibility and I don't know if the Connecticut judges share that view in any way, shape or form, but we react very poorly to legislative respects.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Representative Carter.
REP. CARTER: Good afternoon. Kind of ignore my voice because I have a cold.
What -- I know you all said that you let some people -- you de-institutionalize people who have mental health problems. What did you do with those people because we just put them in jail here? What do you do with those people in Texas?
JUDGE LARRY GIST: Right now they go to jail, but the effort is being made to specialize mental health caseloads. The Legislature created something called the "Mental Health Initiative" and gave the -- there's a department under our Department of Criminal Justice that deals with mentally ill offenders and they gave them an extra, I think it was $35 or $40 million for the sole purpose of trying to address appropriate sanctions to the mentally ill, both in prison and out of prison so that we can work with the local mental health organizations.
Traditionally, in my state, the local mental health agencies didn't want to mess with criminals because they were criminals. We just wanted to deal with the nice people who had mental illnesses. And this is money that's set now with the legislation that ties it in. They must, they must provide programs and services for the mental ill who are also in criminal trouble. That just started. So far, it's looking wonderful. Everybody's cooperating and if they can just -- I don't know enough about it to speak with authority, but from what I can see, most of these folks, if they take their pills, they can function in society in a meaningful way. It's when they, for whatever reason, stop taking their medicine, that they fall off and start causing problems for everybody.
And this is a system designed to try and make them go every day or three times a day or have somebody come out to their house and make sure that they're on their medication. And if that happens, then everybody wins. They stay out of prison and trouble, our costs of putting them in the hospital are in because they've overdosed. A lot of our guys overdose on Crack, you know, that type of stuff and it causes an expense somewhere else, but it still comes out of the State Treasury, you know.
REP. CARTER: But those people who go to the correction system and are on drugs, and drugs is the reason why because they were possessing, in their possession, do you keep them in for more than two months or more than three months so that you can make sure they're totally detoxed and it's totally out of their system, it's just in their mind, at this particular time?
JUDGE LARRY GIST: That's -- we don't -- you don't go to jail to detox. We have private medical facilities where that's done. You only go there if you're convicted of an offense or you've violated probation and are revoked to prison.
But that's not for detox, that's for --
REP. CARTER: So if you have a drug offender that is -- that comes before you, you send them to a detox facility first?
JUDGE LARRY GIST: Right. I don't send them, the police take them. We've got it in our law. That's where they've got to go.
REP. CARTER: First?
JUDGE LARRY GIST: Yes, Ma'am.
REP. CARTER: And then they come to you for any offense that they've done?
JUDGE LARRY GIST: That's correct. That's correct.
REP. CARTER: Okay, it's kind of different than ours. Okay, thank you.
JUDGE LARRY GIST: Yes, Ma'am.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Next, Representative Powers.
REP. POWERS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Judge, does Texas have a civil liberties union?
JUDGE LARRY GIST: Civil liberties?
REP. POWERS: Yes.
JUDGE LARRY GIST: We did, I think. Yes, Ma'am, we do, very active, very active.
REP. POWERS: How do you get away with putting bracelets on people?
JUDGE LARRY GIST: Putting what?
REP. POWERS: The bracelets on people, the different colors.
JUDGE LARRY GIST: It's never been challenged. It's not -- it doesn't do anything. It's no different than making you stay at home, the way we look at it. If somebody were to object, we'd probably take it off, but nobody has. It works very well. I've never heard of a single person object to it.
REP. POWERS: Does the convicted person sign something that says they agree to do this?
JUDGE LARRY GIST: No, they're ordered. Our probationers and prisoners are ordered to do things by a judge, but they have a right to object to it and if they prevail with the objection, -- there are a lot of things. Some of them will object -- we have electronic monitoring in some counties and there have been objections filed because that disqualifies them from getting a job or maybe keeps them from working or whatever and to my knowledge, every one of those have been removed, you know. It's just never been a problem. Nobody's -- maybe you need to come and tell us what we're doing wrong.
REP. POWERS: No, no. I think it's a fascinating idea. I just -- a guy walks in a store and he's got a green bracelet and the store owner looks at him and he says. "Oh, can I show you the way out?"
JUDGE LARRY GIST: No, no, no, no.
REP. POWERS: No?
JUDGE LARRY GIST: No, no. No, there's no penalty that comes from walking in with a green bracelet. It's just watching him. If you knew the guy was a thief, if the guy had stolen from your store before, and he comes in again, wouldn't you watch him?
REP. POWERS: Yes, although actually I'd try to get him out of there.
JUDGE LARRY GIST: Oh, I don't know if we could get him out, but we watch him close.
REP. POWERS: Okay. Alright. Well, maybe we'll try that. Thank you.
JUDGE LARRY GIST: Okay.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Senator Handley, followed by Representative O'Connor.
SEN. HANDLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm interested in a diversion court concept. What are the limits on it? Obviously there have to be -- there are some issues that would never be brought up, but how do you make the distinction?
JUDGE LARRY GIST: It's driven by the local prosecutorial discretion. The local prosecutor sets the rules. They differ from place-to-place. Our District Attorney said that he would put in the diversion program to anybody that possessed one rock of Crack or less and had never been arrested before in their life. Okay, we've got one guy in our program. You can't have them too tight. So now we're in a little bit broader thing. We've even bringing in people that have drug problems, but who have committed usually a property offense of some kind, a lower level property offense. But the prosecutor sets the standards. The prosecutor has full charging discretion and most of the bigger cities now are working on a diversion program. Some of them are more structured or difficult qualifications to get in, but it's driven by the local prosecutor.
SEN. HANDLEY: But even a serious felony, if in the --
JUDGE LARRY GIST: No, no, no.
SEN. HANDLEY: Oh, okay. Alright.
JUDGE LARRY GIST: No, we're talking about at every instance, it's low level drug and property offense.
SEN. HANDLEY: Oh, okay. So there is that. There is that kind --
JUDGE LARRY GIST: No, it's for the --
SEN. HANDLEY: I wasn't sure how much discretion you were talking about.
JUDGE LARRY GIST: Well, theoretically, a prosecutor could put a murderer in there, but he would only do it for one term.
SEN. HANDLEY: And probably not -- thank you.
REP. DYSON: Representative O'Connor.
REP. O'CONNOR: Thank you very much. I just have a quick question. What kinds of programs have you found successful in the job training arena to prevent recidivism because I know often times they can make more money in the black market or illegal activities than they can make $8, $10 an hour. What have you found to -- do you get them into trade programs or any of those kinds of sectors?
MICHAEL P. JACOBSON, PH.D.: Well, I'll take a first shot at this. There are several programs around the country that are really good examples of sort of best practice in this area and, in fact, when you talk about jobs programs and employment, employment training and vocational training, that is one of the things that folks have mentioned that if done right, can really get you lower recidivism. So on the east coast, one of the biggest job training and job providing agencies is an agency called the Center for Employment Opportunities which happens to be housed in New York, but there's big programs in Chicago, the REO, the Safer Foundation. REO in Seattle and what those programs all have in common is that they very aggressively, in the case of the Center for Employment Opportunities in New York, they get people working literally the day they leave prison and they get a hold of them right then and there and very intensively both get them supported work and they have a daily paycheck and also begin the process, to the extent that it's needed, of life skills training, vocational training, and then their goal is to transition people into non-subsidized jobs.
That program has a tremendous, tremendously successful recidivism rate for people who make it into jobs and one of the reasons they do, and again, this is true in every single state, is that statistics will show you, in every state, bar none, is that when people fail on community supervision, when people fail both their initial placement on probation or certain post-prison on parole, the first 30, 60, 90 days is incredibly important because that's the time when most people, that's the toughest time and people fail in the first three to six months and if you can get someone during that time period and start doing intensive work, that almost always includes job training, you can hugely lower your recidivism rates. The trick is, some of those interventions are relatively expensive because the way most states work is that you spend $2,000 or $3,000 a month on someone when they're in prison and the day they come out of prison, you start spending $30 a month on them when they're on post-prison supervision.
So, states need to find a way to sort of collapse that expenditure up front, especially with jobs programs and there are some very good models around and that will get you huge payoffs, but the difficulty, especially in an era of fiscal crisis, is finding a way to do that because a lot of those programs, some of the stuff that the Judge was talking about, he said are free or cheap. These programs are not necessarily cheap, but they're very comprehensive and they have tremendous results. It just takes sort of political and substantive strategy to get that intervention up front quickly.
REP. O'CONNOR: Just to follow-up on that, I know, working with some of the business community, how do you get them to buy into it? Because a lot of times, let's say you have a plumbing company and you have an apprentices that maybe has a track record, maybe stealing. How do you kind of bridge that gap or along those lines? Tax incentives?
MICHAEL P. JACOBSON, PH.D.: Again, a lot of states, New York is one, provide a series of different kinds of tax incentives to do this kind of work and as people say, this is always a tricky issue for post-prison employment and you get into a variety of labor and equity issues, but the thing is, there are a lot of types of businesses, landscaping, food service industry, auto. There are a lot of businesses that are, in fact, very amenable to a lot of this population and they seem to do very well and you do skirt around some of those labor issues, but the way you buy into it, for a lot of the businesses that these folks wind up working in, that business community really likes working with this population because the fact of the matter is, when most people who leave prison want to be successful. There are very few people that leave prison on the day they're leaving prison say, I cannot wait to get back here. I mean, a lot of them may wind up back there, but they really don't want to go back there.
So if you can structure something that sort of taps into that, and gets them something like that initial stage, they can, in many cases, be excellent employees. There are businesses in New York City whose primary employees are ex-prisoners and the business community likes them, but it takes, you know, it takes education, it takes money. You know, this stuff doesn't happen overnight.
But it can work really well.
REP. O'CONNOR: And just one final question. When do you interact with the business, while they're still in prison to get them the job the day after they leave or is it something that --
MICHAEL P. JACOBSON, PH.D.: Well ideally, again, this practice is all over the map. Ideally, you should do exactly what you're saying, you want to do this sort of transition plan while the person is in prison, before he gets out of prison so that by the time he's out, he has something waiting for him. There are not many states that make that kind of effort for a whole bunch of reasons, funding being one of them. But what a lot of these job programs do, very successfully, is that they have job placement counselors. These folks work the industry, that's what they do. It's not necessarily geared to particular individuals, but they're constantly working industries and corporations to set aside some number of jobs for these folks and then they start to place people in them when they leave. That planning should certainly start on an individual basis before someone leaves or in the case of probation, when they come onto probation, but you really -- it takes a lot of leg work to get industries amenable to this, but it can be done. It just takes a bit of effort and money.
REP. O'CONNOR: Thank you very much.
JUDGE LARRY GIST: Can I just add one thing to that? We have a thing called "Prison Industries" in the Texas prison system that does all kinds of manufacturing things, most of it, in fact, all of it right now for the State and it's political subdivisions.
They formed a committee that involved business people, labor people, everybody that has anything to do with employment to bring them in and to say where are the jobs are going to be? Where are they now and where are they going to be? Where is there going to be a need? Because it's crazy to train inmates to operate a computer, for instance, if there's an over-supply of computer people who want jobs. So it has been very helpful in structuring the training opportunity within prison to learn a skill to redirect that where we would know there would be opportunities when they get out.
BARBARA TOMBS: In Kansas we use a lot of our work release programs, meaning that while people were still in prison, but within a certain period of release, towards their release, there were certain industries who we would send them to work there and upon, if they did well, and they proved themselves, a lot of times those industries would hire them full-time when they got out of prison. And while they were on work release, of course, they were earning their usual -- I think it is $1.92 a day is all they earned on work release and they weren't earning a whole lot of money. It was also giving that employer an opportunity to assess that person, their skills and so forth. And so we always we tell our inmates you want to make sure you're doing a good job and so forth because that would then further their possible employment afterwards.
REP. O'CONNOR: And that was kind of the early termination of probation. Is that the kind of example of that?
BARBARA TOMBS: No, they were actually in prison and when we had a determinate sentencing. So they knew when their sentence was going to be up. So while they were actually in prison, the bus would come pick them up in the morning, take them and drop them off at these different industries who had agreed to service work release industries and come pick them up at night and bring them back and then they would do that usually somewhere between six months and a year of their release and upon their final release, then they would be hired full-time.
REP. O'CONNOR: Thank you very much. I appreciate your answers.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Are there any other comments or questions? Thank you very much for you're being here and it's been refreshing to hear you and things that you've done in your states and hopefully some of it will rub off in the State of Connecticut and we will surpass what it is that you have been able to do.
Thank you very much for coming.
JUDGE LARRY GIST: Thank you all.
REP. DYSON: Okay. Mr. Morano who is the Chief State's Prosecutor. Come right on, sir. Followed by Commissioner Lantz.
REP. LAWLOR: As the Chief State's Attorney sits down, I think it's appropriate to point out that later this afternoon is the services for former Chief State's Attorney Bailey and I think he appeared before our committee and I know the Appropriations Committee and the Public Safety Committee many times. He was a very good friend of the Legislature and a very much respected individual and although some of us may not be able to get to the wake tonight in a timely fashion, I certainly know that I speak on behalf of every member of all these committees who extend their condolences to the Bailey family and to all of his former colleagues. And you know what great regard and what high regard we've always held Mr. Bailey and the Bailey family in and I know you feel the same way, Chris. I just thought it would be appropriate to point that out at this time.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Thank you, Chairman Lawlor. And I accept those comments on behalf of my colleagues in the Division of Criminal Justice on my behalf and more importantly, on behalf of the Bailey family. He was very proud to come here. He enjoyed, even though we all didn't always agree, but he enjoyed the debate that he could be part of and spoke often highly of each and every member of both these committees.
That being said, I'm going to be, which lawyers always start by saying, brief in light of my other duties today, but I did want to take the opportunity and appreciate the opportunity to address the issues you are looking at today.
Good afternoon, Senator Harp, Senator Genuario and Senator Kissel, Representative Dyson, Representative Lawlor, Representative Metz, Representative Farr, and members of the Appropriations and Judiciary Committees.
For the record, I am Christopher Morano, Connecticut's Chief State's Attorney and I thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committees today to discuss the issue of prison overcrowding.
As the state agency constitutionally charged with the investigation and prosecution of all criminal matters in Connecticut, the Division of Criminal Justice is well aware of the ramifications of prison overcrowding and the related issues. It is very clear that we cannot continue to conduct business as usual. We cannot afford it for financial and public safety reasons.
I think it is appropriate that I leave the discussion of the financial issues to others and focus my remarks on the public safety issues.
As it is obvious that we cannot continue to incarcerate individuals at the rate that we currently do, the question becomes which individuals must be incarcerated to protect the public safety and to serve the interest of justice. For years, the criminal justice system has been forced to take a triage approach to the underlying issues at stake here. Judges and prosecutors make decisions of who goes to prison and who does not. In some instances, they have essentially been put into the role of making policy decisions, policy decisions of such a magnitude that they are best made by the elected representatives of the people, the General Assembly.
In making these policy decisions, the Division of Criminal Justice does not believe the answer is to simply repeal existing laws or reducing existing penalties until we reach the population levels sought. There are some who would endorse this approach, as it would aid the release of inmates without the well founded, reasoned, and constitutional process of the judicial system.
Remember, we, in the Division of Criminal Justice do not initially pick who will be subject to incarceration. Those individuals do that by choosing to commit crimes.
In light of this, Section 24 of the bill, dealing with free base, or as it's often known as, Crack/Cocaine, deserves close scrutiny. Currently, under existing law, any seller convicted of possessing a one-half gram of Crack or more is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. It should be noted that this mandatory minimum sentence applies only if the seller is not a drug dependent person and that the law sets forth a process for the court to waive the mandatory minimum sentence, under certain circumstances.
Now, one-half gram may seem like a very small amount and some adjustment may be appropriate. But to raise the level, as proposed in the draft legislation to one ounce, which is equivalent to 28.3 grams, is a major increase. I've done a lot of drug prosecution cases in my time. Few dealers will carry this much product on them, both for legal reasons and out of fear for their own safety because let's face it, if they're carrying that much on them, they're at risk of being robbed.
A 56-fold increase, which is what is being proposed here, would essentially, I submit to you respectfully, render this law useless.
While I recognize the need reassess and discuss our approach to our drug laws, we must acknowledge that drug abuse and trafficking are currently a major factor contributing to violence that we are seeing in our inner cities, as well as other places of the State.
As such, until the underlying social issues that foster drug use are addressed, strong penalties are needed in this area, especially from those who profit from the sale of these substances.
The answer is not to simply repeal or rewrite laws to get the prison population to a certain level, rather the legislative, executive, and judicial branches must work together to find new ways and new approaches to the question of sanctions for those who commit criminal acts.
In considering any proposal, it is imperative that we take into consideration its effect not only upon, as the language reads in the current statute, the "general welfare of society", but also specifically that of public safety and most importantly, the constitutional rights of victims.
The Division of Criminal Justice stands ready to assist you and to work with all other appropriate agencies to investigate and implement alternatives to incarceration for those individuals for whom such alternatives are appropriate.
As we are breaking new ground, it is imperative that we proceed with the utmost caution. As such, the Division strongly recommends that any new programs or initiatives are implements in a manner that would allow for review and scrutiny on an ongoing basis and where appropriate, a sunset procedure put into place.
I am pleased to see that a review process is included in Section 27 of the draft legislation. It simply needs to be fine tuned and where appropriate, a sunset provision added. Too often in the past, we have seen new approaches put into place without such scrutiny and we have found ourselves dealing with a crisis at a later time which could have been averted.
It doesn't always take much time to see where fine tuning and legislation is needed. One example is the recent DNA Data Bank legislation adopted during this past session. The effective and efficient use of the DNA Data Bank and the associated technology is an essential component of any comprehensive strategy to address prison overcrowding, particularly with regard to pre-conviction inmates who are a major contributor to the overcrowding problem.
The DNA Data Bank Oversight Panel, which was established by law that you passed, held its first meeting in preparing for its October 1st effective date next month. We have identified several areas where the legislative intent or legislation needs some clarification and I bring them up at this time because in pre-arrest situations, there is no clear way to decide guilt or innocence than a relevant use of DNA in a case.
Many of our, 20%, I believe, of our population is pre-arrest and assessing the strength of those cases or the weaknesses of those cases decollate the guilty from the innocent, I think would be a major advancement in addressing the overcrowding issue.
The DNA Data Bank Oversight Panel has found some areas which I'd like to point out to you that need to be addressed and because of the urgency of its effective date, I would ask that you, in some way, examine them during this special session.
For example, the public act does not set forth who will take the actual DNA samples. Secondly, there is another conflict that exists with Megan's Law concerning the form in which the samples will be taken. Under existing statutory construction, with Megan's Law legislation, that sample is taken by way of a blood sample. As you may recall, the DNA Data Bank change, which allows for samples from all convicted felons, allows for a much less intrusive manner, that being a cheek swab and that is the method that will be utilized in taking samples.
There probably needs to be some correction in the law so that that less intrusive sample method is applied to Megan's Law donors, as well.
While there are many grants available for testing DNA samples, we have found that none of these grants apply to the collection of samples that are to be tested. We have discussed this issue as recently as last week with members of OPM, as well as other agencies involved and hopefully a resolution is forthcoming, but we may need assistance from your committees in this area.
There is absolutely no penalty for somebody who refuses to provide a sample required under the law. Under Megan's Law, which has an existing sample procedure, such a refusal is a criminal violation. Similar teeth need to be added to this law, as well.
And finally, the effective date, as I stated earlier, is October 1st of this year. At the present time, with the need to answer some of these questions, and with the need to order the appropriate testing kits, there is no way the system is going to be up and running by October 1st and I would respectfully request that while an effective date would be October 1st, and that the date for the procedures to start be amended to go to January 1, 2004.
I will be submitting to the committee supporting information from the DNA Data Bank Oversight Panel. We would respectfully request that you consider these necessary and appropriate changes during your deliberations in this special session and on this topic.
I stand ready to provide your committee draft language to address these issues.
As Chief State's Attorney, I welcome oversight of the Division of Criminal Justice by the General Assembly. I believe the same oversight that has been applied to our agency and to many other programs must be an integral part of your decisions in the issue of alternatives to incarceration.
Once again, I thank you for providing me with this opportunity to appear before your committee today to speak to you on this issue. I look forward to working with you to develop a comprehensive solution to the issue of prison overcrowding that addresses the concerns that I have raised today and the major concern, that being justice.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Just a comment. This DNA piece that you speak about is something that you feel needs to be done because I don't remember it being a part of anything that we have put forward?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Do you mean the DNA Data Bank?
REP. DYSON: Right.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: We were proponents of the expansion of the DNA Data Bank to include all felons, absolutely, sir.
REP. DYSON: So essentially, though, this is something that you would want to have added to what it is we have proposed to do?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: What we need to do -- in the last session when the bill was passed, it certainly went a long way in expanding the DNA Data Bank. What we need now is to clean up some loose ends so that we will have a system that will work and these areas -- there are about five areas that need to be cleaned. I don't think they're very controversial. The beauty of the DNA Data Bank is it not only helps law enforcement, it also helps to clear the innocent, as well.
REP. DYSON: I was just trying to make sure that you laid claim to what you were asking for in terms of what it is that we've proposed. I was trying to get that on the record that we're not trying to do that, this is something that you --
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Correct. I'm asking -- this is in addition to what the draft legislation I read was, but because of the urgency of the effective date, and what I have just learned in the last week, I felt I should communicate that to you and request it as soon as possible.
REP. DYSON: Yes, Representative Lawlor and then Senator Harp.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just want to -- the DNA thing is not part of our topic today, but you raised it. I think there's a lot of confusion about last year's legislation and I wanted to clarify what I believe was the clear intent was not that starting October 1st all this DNA had to be collected from everyone. It was instead that on that date that sentence defenders would be required to submit that, if requested. So I don't think there's any deadline looming over anyone's head. So I think it was always anticipated it would take a while to put up and running all the appropriate training and resources, etcetera that would take -- first collect it and then catalog it and we all understand that that requires a lot of money and there's a lot of convicted offenders and that it will take some time.
And I do believe there is a penalty for refusing to submit anything which you're required to submit. I think it's interfering with a police officer, is it not? Anybody who refused to have their photo taken in a police -- I think there is an existing penalty in general for refusing to submit to whatever you've been ordered to do by an authorized peace officer. And so actually I think there is a penalty.
So, in any event, I just wanted to state that for --
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Representative Lawlor, you're correct. That would be the creative approach we would utilize in the stopgap of trying to resolve this, but I think it would be cleaner and clearer and a clear expression of legislative intent as similar to having a law that says failing to submit to fingerprints is a crime and failing to provide a sample for Megan's Law registration process is a crime. It certainly would be clearer and better that it involve this, as well.
Secondly, on the issue of the start date. My initial understanding and probably it was with talking with you that it would be as requested, but in reading the legislation and the other agencies that have read the legislation, it looks pretty clear cut that we've got to start. I would point out that when Megan's Law was passed and we started sampling then, there was probably a three or four month gap between the date of start and when they were actually getting things up and running.
Our concern is that the people and victims maybe expecting this as of that date and we cannot deliver it as of that date and just a change, a minor change saying while it's effective, which gives the panel the power to start doing its work, and the agencies involved to start getting ready, we could get it done by January 1st. But the important thing is there's nothing in the law that says what agency shall do the collection. So we sat down at the panel meeting last week and we said well, we've got three groups. We've got people in custody or on parole, we have people on probation, and we have people who are convicted of a felony, but for some reason, whatever the sentence is, doesn't involve parole or incarceration or probation.
Whose going to collect? We divided them into those three groups and we respectfully suggested that Corrections would handle those that are parole or in custody and they said they absolutely would do that. We suggested that the State Police would handle those people that are out by people reporting to the Troop and we suggested that the Judicial Department would handle those people that were on probation.
Now, these were pretty big statements for this panel to make because there is putting a big burden labor-wise, labor issue-wise, financially on all of these agencies. And this is where we need to turn to the Legislature. These are big policy issues and I think we need to have you address who should collect them. I think that's probably the way it should go, but it wasn't very popular when I suggested it that way, but I don't know that this panel has the appropriate authority to -- (inaudible) would have the authority.
Those are just some of the issues and I will, rather than belabor today because I know you've got a lot more to go on to look at, I will submit the issues in greater detail with the suggested draft language, if you so desire.
REP. DYSON: Senator Harp and then -- well, let me do this. I know some people have asked me to speak and I assume it's pursuing the same line of questioning that you are responding to. So if it is okay, allow me to call Senator Kissel. Senator Kissel, go right ahead.
SEN. KISSEL: Actually, Mr. Chairman, it's off of that DNA issue. It's a different issue as to --
REP. DYSON: It's a different issue.
SEN. KISSEL: So, if I could speak after Senator Harp.
REP. DYSON: Sure.
SEN. KISSEL: She might ask my question.
REP. DYSON: Senator Harp, go right ahead.
SEN. HARP: Thank you. My question was on your testimony having -- in regard to Crack and I guess having never purchased Crack before, I don't know what a half gram looks like as opposed to the 28.3 grams that you say that the bill is going to increase it to. So, could you show me with your finger, maybe, what a half dram looks like?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: I have to do it that way. The amount that's sold, usually and it depends, usually what you would get on the street in a little vial is probably less than half a gram. It's a very, very small amount.
SEN. HARP: It's like your fingers are now?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Well, probably even smaller.
SEN. HARP: Okay. So then the amount that the bill has would look like what? I just want to measurably be able to see --
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Well, an ounce -- it depends on how dense it is. It's quite a bit. An ounce of Crack Cocaine, when it's broken down for sale is a lot of Crack Cocaine. That is a lot of monetary value of Crack Cocaine.
SEN. HARP: I know it's a monetary value, but what does it look like? Because you also said that it would endanger the person whose selling it --
(Inaudible-tape switched from Side 1B to Side 2A - some dialogue and testimony not recorded)
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: -- It almost looks like a kid's tooth, but a little smaller.
SEN. HARP: It looks like a child's tooth, but smaller?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: It's dense like that and it's an amount that would be given to someone in a vial would look like a child's tooth that comes out, a very young child's tooth, maybe a little bit smaller. What you're going to see in an ounce is quite a bit bigger. It's usually in a pie shape.
SEN. HARP: Is it that much? I just want to know visually what we're talking about.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Let me tell you, no one is going to make -- I never thought I would be answering this. Nobody is going to confuse between the two and the reason that I say that no one's going to carry that much is because of its monetary value, they're going to get ripped off by a competitor or someone else because that can then be broken down and become a lot of singular sales which is where the money's at.
SEN. HARP: Well, I guess my question would be and it's simply a question of visually and how one can conceal something. Given -- if I were a criminal, I would have some sort of stealth abilities and if we're talking about a big box of stuff that an ounce would be because I'm thinking about nuts. When I go into the store -- like an ounce of Pinola nuts is going to be different than an ounce of Brazil nuts and it's going to look different and I'm going to handle it differently and I know it sounds silly, but in a way, like you made the point. So, I'm just kind of concerned about if, in fact, one would even know that one had one or the other on them because that was your point. And I guess the other point that you didn't address is chemically can you tell me the difference in what Cocaine is and what Crack is and why, from a criminal justice point of view, we have different standards for each one of them? And could you also tell me how you, as a prosecutor, see different people who are arrested for either dealing or using, one or the other, since, in fact, we do have different standards for them?
So could you kind of lay out for me what all of that means? And I guess what I'm really understanding is that it's the monetary value, not the amount that is an issue with the Crack. So maybe a small amount that they can hide easily, but from a monetary point of view it costs and it has a lot more street value.
Now can you kind of balance the other thing because I guess in this bill we're being asked to consider changing regarding these two as a difference. Why do you think they're different and what's your perspective on each one?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Well, there's a difference between regular Cocaine and Crack Cocaine in it's in the addictiveness of it, and the ease in which it's consumed, and sometimes in a way in which it's marketed. The explosion of Crack Cocaine usage that came over a period of years, these laws weren't just -- they were created in response to problems that were observed across the country that eventually came here. And the initial cost of a small rock of Crack Cocaine was cheaper than regular Cocaine. It's almost in marketing. You could buy, at one point, for $10 a little rock of Crack Cocaine. You could consume it real quickly at a pipe and you got a quick intense high.
That was a lot easier than dealing with regular powder Cocaine. The problem that turned out is that it turned out to be extremely addictive and that led to people wanting more and more and more and usually right at the time that they were starting to come down from the first high, which is not that long, and the power of it appeared to very immense. People were immediately needing to get more and more money and they wanted more and more Crack. So the more money they needed, they were resulting to crime.
People who tried it that had good jobs and were doing well, I mean there are many, many stories of people who immediately, over a period of time, lost all of that, including their families. It's a very powerful form of Cocaine.
Now, I'm not saying that a half a gram is the appropriate cutoff point. I agree, it probably should be looked at, but to raise it to something that's 56 times or whatever the figure is I told you, is a huge jump and you're not going to see someone with that much on them because first of all, any good dealer, any good dealer knows that they can't keep on them a large amount because if they get arrested, the amount on them is going to be calculated to decide whether to charge them as someone who is simply in possession or someone who is in possession with intent to sell.
Anyone who has that much Crack Cocaine is going to be viewed by any law enforcement person, and I believe a jury, as having the possession with the intent to sell and that raises the stakes.
So that's the point I'm trying to get across here.
SEN. HARP: Well, I guess my point would be and the way that I think about this that it became a problem -- Cocaine wasn't a problem as long as the middle and upper middle class people were using it, but when poor people starting using it, and wanted and engaging in drug seeking behavior, it became a problem. The reality for me is that probably the addictiveness, there maybe some slight difference, but I don't even know, can you cite studies that can give me that? I think that what we have done in our society is basically make poor people pay a higher cost for the same thing that we consider the pleasure of the upper classes. And I believe it's wrong. It's just my opinion. It's what we've done and our prison system reflects that.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Well, if that is what's occurring -- any law that's based that way, I would have a problem with, but I should point out to you that the same statute also addresses a low level amount of LSD and if you want to talk about usage of LSD, I think you see that more amongst people going to Grateful Dead shows or other shows of that kind and I think that it shows as an equality, based upon the dangerousness of the drugs, in addressing this issue.
Whether it's targeting -- I don't believe that that's the case. I do see that our prisons have a disproportionate racial mixture and that's an issue that's being addressed by various committees and blue ribbon committees that have been set up by the Legislature. That's not the issue I'm addressing here. It's always a concern and something we should look at. What I'm addressing here is, if you change this amount and you bring it up so high, you're essentially making that law useless and I don't think, with the amount of violence that's related to the sales of drugs in our inner-cities and I would point out violence upon minorities, that this is the appropriate thing to do.
I met with the Chief of Police in Hartford last week and we were talking about the violence that's occurring in his city and I asked Chief Marquis what is the biggest problem here? What do you have going on here? And his answer to me was, "It's drugs, it's the byproducts of the sales of drugs and the violence related that's causing these problems." And until we address that, we need statutes that make those who profit, not those who use, but those who profit, face stiffer sentences.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. You don't like Grateful Dead? You don't have to answer that.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Okay.
REP. DYSON: Senator Kissel.
SEN. KISSEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And at the outset, I'd like to associate myself with the remarks made by Chairman Lawlor regarding our late friend, Jack Bailey who truly was a friend to the folks I represent up in Enfield and north-central Connecticut. Indeed, a role model for everybody involved in law enforcement and truly a fantastic public servant for everybody in the State of Connecticut. I know you're a personal friend and you have my condolences and the family has my condolences, as well.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Thank you, Senator.
SEN. KISSEL: I actually thought Senator Harp was going to get to my question and she went all the way around it. I guess very succinctly, I don't want to see that part of the law eviscerated and I think that jumping from one-half a gram to an ounce would be a mistake and I don't perceive the kind of societal distinction. I think it has to do with dangerousness and so I think in that respect, Chief State's Attorney, you and I are on the same page.
But I would ask this question. Based upon your experience in law enforcement and prosecuting cases that deal with this and your staff, many of whom I see in the audience, if one-half a gram is too low, and an ounce is too high and you've said that we need to look at this, well I think today's the day that we're looking at this and so do you have a concrete recommendation of where we could adjust it so that perhaps our laws are fairer and yet we don't undermine the very laudable goal of bringing in folks that are out there selling Crack Cocaine?
I need a specific gram amount, if you can give it to me.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: I'll say anywhere between five and ten grams.
SEN. KISSEL: Thank you very much.
REP. DYSON: Let me just say this, if I might. And I know there's a question that was raised by Senator Harp and I have deliberately tried to stay away from this issue for a lot of reasons because I do not want it to over-shadow what we're trying to do.
Mr. Jacobson said something earlier about the complexity of people who are confined in the northeast. Connecticut operates at a high percentage than any of the others. There's a reason for that, I don't know what it is. There's a reason for that. I met with some people today who talked about youth, children really, that are under the jurisdiction of the State. That would be DCF and the like and juvenile detention, really. And they have the same problem there. There is something going on. I don't know what it is, but there's something going on and I think if we continue to operate with head in sand and that somehow just leave it alone, that it might go away, does a disservice to the notion of justice in this place because there's no way that you can explain it and I'm waiting on an explanation as to how you can justify and give a rational reason for Connecticut having a higher rate of incarceration for people of color and does this issue have anything to do with it? The issue of Crack/Cocaine. I don't know. I really don't know. And I don't know if anyone does know, but God, somebody ought to be looking at that. And before we dig in and say no, we're not going to change in what we find is some middle ground to make some accommodation, God, tell me something first. And I don't sense there's a willingness here to do that and it just goes on and it goes on and it goes on. And pretty soon, the law explodes on us. So, you don't need to respond to that.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: But I'd like to, sir, if I could briefly.
First of all, Representative, I'm relatively new in this role to this debate and I don't believe that I have had to appear before you or deal with many issues in the last session. There were very few that we discussed from my agency on Appropriations, but I think there's one thing you will find and if you will speak to your colleagues, you will find that I'm not going to bury my head in the sand. I will have a frank and concrete discussion on any issue related to criminal justice, including this one.
The numbers of people that are in jail for Crack/Cocaine, I'd like to know those numbers and I'm sure that we can run them through the Judicial Department computers and Correction computers.
REP. DYSON: You can't do a fair assessment of that based upon what Representative Farr said because of the plea bargaining process. And you don't know what it is. How do you go back and dig that data out?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Well, then what we need to do is sit down and come up together with a way that we can find a fair way to evaluate it and then let's look at it and I'm willing to do that with you and I don't blame you for being skeptical because it's been a concern of yours for a long time. But I'll give you an example of where I immediately adopt your concerns.
You stated recently or last session, about a year ago, about the inability and the hindrances there are from people who get out of jail and can't transfer back into a regular life in society. The inability to get licensing easily and do you know what? I heard you say that and I agree with you wholeheartedly and have tried to track what we do to make that easier. That's one issue. It's not related to this, but that's to show you that I listen and we can probably work together. We don't always agree, but I'll sit head-to-head with you and I won't bury my head in the sand and I can't wait to start doing that with you, sir.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Representative Lawlor.
REP. LAWLOR: One thing very quickly. First, I just want to acknowledge, as the Chief State's Attorney just said, that he has been responsive on a number of topics like, for example, training of prosecutors, which had long, for many, many years had been ignored and I think that's a step in the right direction.
But I just want to clarify, Chris, one thing you said earlier in your prepared statement and that was that you seem to say rather than go specific crime-by specific crime, and change penalties and stuff like that, it seemed like you're open to a more comprehensive thought process about how all these penalties fit together, etcetera. And that's something other states have done. They've established all varieties of guidelines and commissions and all this kind of stuff, but is that the kind of thing that you're referring to, to just look at everything together as opposed to --
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: I think we're going to have to go into it bit-by-bit, eventually. I did not choose to do that in my remarks today for two reasons. One, I wanted to wait a little longer and digest it. I got this draft toward the end of last weekend. I was a bit distracted this week and I apologize for that.
Secondly, I wanted to listen to the debate today and maybe I'd learn something and I have. And then sit with my people who are listening, as well, and then submit to you some more recommendations before you go into special session.
REP. LAWLOR: Well, I said that only because when we were just having a discussion, Representative Dyson asking about how do we figure out the effective plea bargaining in Crack/Cocaine. Barbara Tombs, who does this for a living, sorts through all this data to figure out what causes what, was nodding her head that that is something that is -- that there is a way to figure that out. And I think we just don't have people in Connecticut whose job it is to look through the data and figure that kind of stuff out, although most states do. That might be something worth considering for the long run.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Along those lines, it would be very helpful and this comes up a lot when you and I talk about an issue. You always say to me, "What are the statistics on this?" Surprisingly, the Division of Criminal Justice has never had a statistic gathering process. We do not have a case management software system that would allow us to immediately plug these things in and find out.
Now, other states have that and I think it's something the Division has requested in the past. It's going to be an expensive undertaking to do, but I think that would be an incredible resource for the Legislature on a multitude of issues that are related to the Division of Criminal Justice. It's something that I'm looking into that again, I'm hesitant to come here looking for any money because I understand your constraints.
REP. LAWLOR: Well, it seems like we've got a lot of options in front of us and they're all expensive. Just some are more expensive than others. So that's the dilemma we're in. But thank you.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Thank you, sir.
REP. DYSON: Next is -- I've got to get Representative Diamantis. Diamantis and then followed by Representative Dillon.
REP. DIAMANTIS: Thank you. I guess the concerns that are raised by Representative Dyson with respect to some of these issues are just not merely his, but ours, as well. And coming here and listening to former Representative Tulisano talk, I could understand how one could go to the other side. The issues you raised with respect to the DNA Bank were issues that where when people see us on t.v. walking up and down the aisles having some discussions, were those very topics of what was wrong with the bill, but I wish to remind you, there were many who still wanted the bill to go forward knowing there's a great deal of fixing up to be done and that we could do it later on.
So, it isn't news to many of us that we need to fix it. We knew it then when it should have been passed in the first place, but there's was an urgency to resolve a particular need of a particular group of people to say that we did something with respect to it and we'll fix it later. That happens with a lot of legislation that we do here.
So, I would agree with you that it needs fixing, but it needed fixing then too and we're going to have to do it today. But there was an urgency to do it then. That was only a comment to respect --
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: I appreciate that, sir and I think I would be remiss in my duties if I did not bring it to your attention and do you know what, now you've got the chance to do it. I hope you can do it.
REP. DIAMANTIS: Well, let's talk about one of the things that you raise as an issue of difference in the amounts. And I'm not so fixated on the amount either because fortunately there's a great many prosecutors who see the error of that statute and there aren't too many people who have prosecuted on that, they're prosecuted on possession of narcotics.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Correct.
REP. DIAMANTIS: The real issue isn't the quantity or the amount or the drug. The issue is how we deal with the folks once they're brought in on those particular charges. And at least from my world, and that is practicing in most of the GA's, --
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: As a defense attorney.
REP. DIAMANTIS: As a defense attorney. Absolutely. But I will have to say to you that my success rests on the ability of the prosecutors and most of them that I work with are very, very, very good and they live in the real world, as well. And we come to meaningful compromises on the reality of what needs to be done. And first and foremost, we all recognize the need that the problem with drug cases isn't the nature of the type of drug, but we do with folks who need drug treatment. And because there are places to put these folks to get them into treatment or we're cutting back budgets, and I guess it will be for comment at the end, we've gone from 90-day programs to 45-day programs to 30-day programs and I think now, after a CADAC evaluation, we're down to 20-day programs because we can't afford to do anything different.
So, the alternative is, because while that person is going to do that 20-day program, they're going to be out on bond while they do that 20-day program. They're then going to get arrested because they will come back dirty again because they recommitted the offense, not necessarily that they did anything other than show up dirty again and who wouldn't expect them to? We assume that in 20 days we're going to cure somebody of a drug habit. It doesn't happen. So what do we do? We put them back in jail on a bond violation or a bail violation or a release violation. If they're on probation, we'll put them back in jail for a dirty urine.
It doesn't -- it isn't the fault of a prosecutor or the fault of a defense attorney for letting it happen, or maybe it's not the fault of a judge. But it is the fault of the system because that's the way we think, get tough on crime. That to me, is not necessarily getting tough on crime. That is, we have a heck of a caseload. It's one way to resolve a case. We lock them up, we put them away when we know the real issue and the prosecutors know the real issue is drug treatment for many of these people, but there isn't a place to put them. And I've been in those cases and there are many of them and I'm sure when I pass this piece of legislation out to many of your prosecutors, because I appreciate their opinion and what we need to do fixing things and I gave it to Probation Officers and to Parole Officers, the people who actually deal with these folks every day, not necessarily the General Assembly that deals with it every day, they hear the repercussions of it.
And I guess the concern we have is Probation Officers aren't the folks that are putting people back in again. It is judges that put people back in again to teach them a lesson or we have the standard deal of let's split the probation time. You owe three. Here's the deal. One and one-half, make your pitch. And that's the standard offer. First time drug dealer, we catch you, six after three, five probation, standard offer. Why do we do that? Because if the message gets out, maybe people won't be selling.
Well, people will always be selling because there will always be people buying and who are going to be using because they're drug addicted because we don't take care of their drug addiction.
So, we're not going to stop the selling that way. So, I guess what this bill does and I didn't hear anything in your testimony to suggest whether you appreciate any portion of this bill. If any of it will work, will not work, because it was tied to the let's work and create something that will work, that's comprehensive. I guess my direct question to you is, does this bill work? Does it achieve the goal that it seeks to achieve? If it does not, where will your changes be?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: First of all, this bill is somewhat a hybrid product of a bill that was -- that I believed I testified before you last session and we had a similar panel up here and I went in great detail, at that time, as to what I liked and what I didn't like.
I noticed in this bill that there were some changes. One that comes to mind was the ability to work off your fine at a certain rate per day. The last time I appeared before this joint panel, it was going to raise by 500%, I believe or 100%, some incredible amount of the amount that a person could work off, which I didn't think it was fair for law abiding citizens who aren't getting raises like that.
That appears to have been thought out again and now it leaves with the Commissioner of Corrections discretion on how to set that amount. So that's good.
There are other areas here, unless I found some extremely bothersome, you're not going to hear me whine about it. Okay. And as far as the issue of how drug cases are dealt in the court, I draw your attention to my comments where I said until the underlying social issues that foster drug use are addressed, until they're addressed, they need to be addressed and you're right, sir, treatment is one of those issues. I've prosecuted cases in Hartford for many years and we would try to get someone into drug treatment and there were no beds and a 90-day program was useless. It wasn't going to get the job done.
But until that's addressed, until we start putting some resources in that area, as well as others, then you're going to have a situation where there's an incredible market for drugs and with that comes incredible money and with that comes violence and that is not acceptable because most of that violence is being committed against citizens of the inner-city and those are people of color.
REP. DIAMANTIS: Well, let me just respond in this respect then. What this bill is seeking to do is deal with individuals who are not committing violent offenses. So that last sentence, by which you suggest there are people committing violent crimes out there, those people wouldn't qualify for some of the programmatic changes that we're suggesting here.
I want to be clear on that. At least that's what I signed on to. And that's the bill I signed on to. So if it's the individual that you're talking about that has committed a violent crime against those individuals, then they wouldn't qualify for any of these release programs or any of these types of treatment programs to be included. They're excluded.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: There lies the rope. And as a prosecutor, doing gang crimes, the life's blood of gangs was drugs. But there were -- at one point in Hartford I was responding to shooting after shooting and murder after murder, going out to these scenes and I would turn around and I'd say hey, who saw this, who saw what? Now, they all saw it. They knew what happened, but they're not saying a word and I don't blame them. At that point, we didn't even have a witness protection program.
What we had to do was to come up with a way to attack these enterprises without relying and asking citizens to stick their necks out. And the best way to do that was to attack what was the source of the criminal activity, which was trafficking and drugs, and to do that by getting undercover sales on video tape, clean, clear cut, no guilt or innocent issue cases that we could, against these individuals, and we did it in New Britain where you practice, as well and to dismantle them that way.
We could do that because we had some form of minimum mandatory sentencing. That broke them apart and that stopped the violence.
So there is a correlation between the two. I agree with you, on many, many non-violent crimes, this legislation is appropriate. And I also applaud the drafters of this legislation to show that they specifically exempted sexual assault cases, other ones. There is one area, though, that I think you should leave in there and that deals with stalking in the second degree because I think that leads to further violent problems. But that and the issue related to trafficking of drugs, there is such a close nexus. You may not get the actual violent person, but that violent person wouldn't be out there committing the violence if someone else wasn't moving the product.
REP. DYSON: Representative Dillon.
REP. DILLON: Good afternoon, Chris.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Good afternoon.
REP. DILLON: It's good to see you. I'm going to play devil's advocate for a moment, not to some of the things that you said, but I want to be clear that I've read most of this stuff so that if you're a position of defending the current system, I don't really think I can exactly make you a punching bag because a lot of the things that we adopted and I'm thinking of the Crack, in particular, many of us adopted, being legislators and responding to the climate, sometimes in a political panic, because we saw a problem and we say we're going to send a message.
So this is the system that we created. And I think we need to have some humility at that and it's nice of you to defend it, but I pushed the button and so I think we need to look at that.
But I was looking at some of your testimony about saying that you don't think we need to change certain laws. And I guess I'm going to think of two different paradigms. I'm assuming that much of our problems are related to addiction and I'm focusing on addiction. And I'm thinking of two other historical situations.
One, in the beginning of this country, people
were routinely imprisoned for debt. That was believed to have a moral component, much, I would argue, like our drug laws today. There's a moral stigma associated with addiction which is a little bit different from some of the other crimes that people are incarcerated for.
That system persisted. People were incarcerated for debt even when they had nothing, they had no resources, it costs a lot of money, it was a system that made no sense (inaudible) for what it was for. And it didn't change until some very prominent -- I think the signing of the Declaration of Independence was incarcerated and everybody started looking at exactly what had happened.
I guess I want to look -- that's one thing. And that is I'm looking at this system, not arguing that it is, but saying it could be that we're invested in the system and that we're in denial about whether it's doing any good. And then second is, the issue of violence in the sale of drugs. It was during prohibition that there was a tremendous amount of violence around the sale of alcohol. And, in fact, I think I would argue that when prohibition was repealed, the amount of alcohol addiction was probably the same throughout before, during and after prohibition, but what probably fluctuated was the amount of money that was spent by law enforcement and possibly the amount of homicides on the streets on the Chicago, in particular.
But I guess I want to look at these -- and I'm thinking about debt and about prohibition of alcohol as sort of parallel systems and I'm not arguing that we should legalize drugs, necessarily, although some of them are legal, but think about what the purpose of the system.
And for that reason, I want to focus just thinking in the background and taking seriously your claim that if the law falls unevenly you wouldn't support it.
There's one section of the bill before us that would change the provisions in current law from departing from a mandatory minimum for the use, possession or delivery of drug paraphernalia within 1,500 feet of a school by a non-student. And there's another section that would change the provisions for departing from the minimum mandatory for drug possession within 1,500 feet of a school or a day care center.
I've actually been educated on this quite a bit by my son who has a very keen sense of justice. Went through New Haven public schools and has pointed out repeatedly to me that the kids that he went to public school with, because they live in denser neighborhoods, have been treated differently for possession of the same drug than the kids he went to Hopkins with.
And I haven't thought about that. There were a couple of cases that jumped out at those kids and he's been out of school for a while. It seems to me that if what we're talking about is what you're saying, the threat of violence, the street value and all those things, that looking at a possession charge in terms of where the defendant is standing, given my district, for example. Where I live, you wouldn't be near a school, probably. You wouldn't be near a day care center. At the other end of my district, you would and the prosecutor would have more to throw at you.
If, in fact, a case of something where on the ground it would have set people in denser neighborhoods than people who live in the suburbs?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Well, it depends upon -- it depends upon the geography of where the school is located, I suppose. There is no doubt about it that in the City of Hartford -- I once sat down and drew circles around where all the schools were. In the City of Hartford, there's maybe two places where you're not within the required distance for the minimum mandatory. And so your point is well taken there.
But that is a decision not made by a prosecutor. That was a decision made by the Legislature who wanted to create greater protections for school zone areas, not to go after individuals and target them based upon where they live, but based upon where they choose to practice their craft, which is dealing drugs near a school. That's why prosecutors are doing what they are doing.
Now, I have situations -- I had situations where officers would come to me and I could tell that they were setting their deals up. They were doing undercover purchase. And they would set the deal up so that they were in that 1,500 foot range. Now, that's dirty pool. That's not fair and I told those -- in those particular cases, I said no, I'm not going to charge it that way because you brought the person there to make the delivery. That's not where they were doing their thing.
But that's a decision you people have to make --
REP. DILLON: And I'm asking you --
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: -- it's a decision you made in the past to protect our schools. I don't think that's a bad decision. I think Lady Justice should be blind, is blind and should not treat cases differently if it's that school or some prep school and I've argued this in front of judges many times. And your concern there, I agree with 110% and it's a concern I know I hear and the people behind me and I agree with them.
REP. DILLON: Well, I conceded in the beginning that we wrote the law. So I don't think you need to throw that back at us that way. We're in agreement on that, but your testimony is that we do not need to simply repeal or rewrite laws and what I'm asking is, and you told us that if you find that we've put something in statute that's unevenly applied, maybe not intentionally, but there are always unintentional consequences.
What we have to do is have the humility to measure what we've created and say is this real far away from what I thought I was doing and have the humility to change it. And what I want to know is given that, is that particular section something that you would be willing to engage in dialogue with us about?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: I'm always living to talk. It's never been a problem for me. And will do that with you, as we have done in the past.
As far as the issue -- I think the two issues you talked about was the delivery of paraphernalia by non-students in a school zone. I think that, again, that maybe something that can be addressed or at least give the judge some ability to relieve that or put aside that minimum mandatory. I think that's something that the Legislature started to do in the past of minimum mandatories and do you know what? Prosecutors used to sit here and say no, never get rid of them, never get rid of them. I like judges to have some discretion. You put some good people up there. And we'll make out pitch to them on a case-by-case basis and I'm not adverse to having a minimum mandatory and then leaving a window for a judge to find a reason why it should not be applied in a particular case.
But these particular minimum mandatories are put there usually for two reasons. One, because of the particular targets of the criminal activity, if it's selling drugs. Or two, because of the status, the non-drug dependent status of the individual who is selling the drugs, but that would be my response.
As far as addiction, there's no law -- if a person's truly addicted, there's no law you're going to pass that's going to stop them from doing what they want to do to satisfy their addiction. They're already hurting their bodies and are going to be facing a more severe penalty in their health. But you've got to treat that with treatment, as I said earlier, but if that addiction is resulting in violence or somehow furthering violence, you've got to deal with that.
I should also point out that the impressions being created in that there are a lot of people in our correctional institutes that are there for mere possession, that's not just accurate if you look at the statistics. And again, maybe we're not going to agree on how those statistics are gathered. Okay, but I don't believe it's accurate and I don't believe it because if they do end up there, having worked in the courts for many years, no one goes to prison for a first time possession of narcotics. There are so many diversionary programs, and they have grown over the last ten years, that are utilized before that happens that it's usually after they've been exhausted, if that happens, or if it's some sort of violation. And even with violations of probation, or a condition of release, I can't tell you how many times that a probation officer would put together a report and it wouldn't be one bad urine, it would be twelve to fifteen. It would be more.
They are not, and I believe that the trend is not to go for technical violations and I endorse that trend. Sometimes that's probably what happens. You're going to see a user go away, but the majority of the times, that's not what's happening.
REP. DILLON: Well, I really appreciate what you're saying. I really feel strongly about what the outputs are. It's embarrassing that Connecticut is such an outliner compared to the rest of the country. It's shocking. We live in a country where the President drank until he was 40 and then he got clean and I think his story is a powerful story and I'm sure that his sense of mission is linked to the gratitude he has about the extraordinary thing that he went through.
But how is that -- there are other people who are different, that they have addiction too and what I want to know is, why are our outputs so different? You're right. You're right that addiction is complicated and all that. Why are so many of the people in our correction system Brown? Do those people have the same opportunities for redemption that somebody who can move to higher office has? I think that's a legitimate question. And I don't think -- that's not something that I would use to accuse anybody. I voted for this system, so I don't have any interest in blaming anybody. But I don't think it's working.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Well, the only thing that I can say is that I don't know the answer to your observation there. As far as my comments on not changing laws, I'm specifically talking about by non-drug dependent persons. That's the specific I'm talking about. I'm not talking about addicted people. I'm talking about people that are making money and getting fat and rich off the addicted people and these are people of color who are the victims. That's what I'm talking about.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Next, Representative Klarides.
REP. KLARIDES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Attorney Morano, I just have a couple of questions to follow-up on Senator Harp's questions about the difference between Crack and powder Cocaine and why we differentiate between them.
When we first made the law that differentiated between the two, why did you say we did it?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: I believe that it was based upon observations in other states and it started to creep into our state about the addictiveness of Crack/Cocaine over powder Cocaine.
REP. KLARIDES: And there's an increase in usage, you said?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: An increase in the usage of Crack/Cocaine? Probably.
REP. KLARIDES: I think you said that before. I may have heard you wrong.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: The primary reason and I believe if you go back and look at the legislative hearings in this area and I wasn't here, I was in court, was because of the addictiveness of Crack/Cocaine.
REP. KLARIDES: But wasn't part of it because of the cost, that powder Cocaine --
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Yes, because it was so cheap.
REP. KLARIDES: -- was a lot more expensive?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Crack/Cocaine was extremely cheap and so for a very -- as I said in my testimony here, it's a lot of bang for the buck. You could get high very quickly and very cheaply, but it didn't last long and it sort of just a tantalizing way to get on that conveyor belt, which ended up needing more and more Crack/Cocaine to satisfy the high, which meant more and more money quickly. Correct.
REP. KLARIDES: But is that still the case now? Hasn't the cost of powder Cocaine gone down? So it's basically as affordable as Crack/Cocaine?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: No, the cost of powder Cocaine depends on where you're buying it. In the city, it tends to be cheaper than in the suburbs. And so I really can't answer that, but I don't think that the -- the other thing is in the marketability and the fact that it's a small amount that you consume quickly, as opposed to powder Cocaine, which is a little more elaborate and drawn out process to consume.
REP. KLARIDES: But I think part of our debates we've been having today have been that because the Crack/Cocaine was cheaper than powder Cocaine to begin with, that's part of the reason why people in the inner-cities could purchase it because they could afford it more and therefore we have the racial disparity with both of them.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: That may very well be, but it's -- that low cost was also, for young people across the board, -- I think in my prosecution of drug cases, though, I saw more Crack/Cocaine cases in the inner-cities, no doubt, and that's where it was being marketed. That's the choice of the seller, not the prosecutor.
REP. KLARIDES: Right. I mean I don't -- I just kind of know what I know about this from our debate today. So, if anything I'm saying isn't right, please correct me.
So basically the people that, way back when, were using the powder Cocaine and it was more expensive than the Crack/Cocaine, those people are now doing probably Heroine, correct?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Well, actually when you get into Heroine --
REP. KLARIDES: I mean, as it's moved up the food chain, so to speak?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Well, actually now Heroine has become so refined that you don't need to inject it. So it's, in some cases, because again it's ability to be consumed just as Crack was easy to consume, it's now, in some cases, replaced powder Cocaine because you can snort it where you couldn't just five or six years ago.
REP. KLARIDES: Right. I mean, the only reason I get to this, just from hearing basically what you've said today and some of my colleagues, is that it would seem that at least a decent part of the reason why we differentiate between Crack/Cocaine and powder Cocaine and the sentencing at first was because of the cost. I completely understand that it was also because of the addictiveness, but I think --
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Both.
REP. KLARIDES: Right, but I think part of the cost was a big issue to begin with also and now that situation isn't as intense. So, it would seem to me that some of the legs of the reasons why we did that, aren't there anymore.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Well, I respectfully disagree with you. I think that they are still there. I think that the cost is still less than powder Cocaine and I don't think you're going to get powder Cocaine in a small quantity for one quick hit high that you can with Crack/Cocaine. You can't just -- you've got to do cost and you've got to do its marketability together. You can't just take one without the other. It's very easy -- when you have a highly addictive thing, if you've got something on a street corner that can be sold very quickly that can be consumed in the alley real quickly, that's going to make it used more and especially if it's more addictive and for some reason, you're going to have to ask someone other me, I'm not a doctor, Crack/Cocaine is more addictive than powder Cocaine.
REP. DYSON: Might I interject here at this point?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Please do.
REP. DYSON: You need to get out of here because you've got some place to go and there are two people wanting to ask questions and I would ask them to ask their questions and you keep your comments short so you can get out of here.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: I will try. I don't like to use the word "short", but I'll do that.
REP. DYSON: Okay, Senator Newton and then Representative Carter and that will conclude the questioning of Mr. Morano.
SEN. NEWTON: Thank you, Chris. Good to see you. And the question is on the disparity, on how we sentence people with powder Cocaine and what we do to people with Crack/Cocaine.
Did your office take into consideration that without powder Cocaine, you could have no Crack/Cocaine?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Yes.
SEN. NEWTON: And that it just makes sense that there would be an equal playing field when it comes to powder Cocaine over Crack/Cocaine, long before there was ever Crack, people used to base Cocaine, which is a form of Crack outside of putting the chemicals and all this stuff to make people do that.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Correct.
SEN. NEWTON: So I don't see a person who brings an ounce of powder Cocaine into the City of Bridgeport, sells it to a drug dealer. The drug dealer cooks it up into base or Crack and would get a higher sentence than the person who comes from Westport, selling the drug than the person who cooks it up and sells it on the street for $5 or $10 or whatever it is. And I think that's one of the reasons why we have this prison overcrowding kind of thing because we've taken -- I would say, a vengeance out on the low level drug dealer in the neighborhoods in urban areas who sell Crack/Cocaine than the person who comes into our city and sells an ounce of powder Cocaine to them. They get a less sentence. Without the powder, you can't have Crack or base.
So, I would think that if there was going to be a sentencing based on what you sell, you would definitely put it on the powder because without the powder coming in, you couldn't cook it up to have the Crack or the base. So, I hear you saying this is more addictive. It's more violent, it's more these kinds of things, but the person that sells powder should be held at a higher standard than a person who sells it on the corner for $5 or $10 because without the powder, you couldn't have Crack/Cocaine or base and there's a big disparity there than the person who sells powder and the person who sells Crack/Cocaine at the same level. That person walks away. I won't say walks away, but is sentenced at a different criteria than the person who sells Crack/Cocaine.
So I hear everyone saying they've got problems with changing what our law is today on the person who sells Crack/Cocaine, but I think that if you looked at it from a realistic point, you could not have that without powder Cocaine and I would think -- I would hope that you would think about that before you rule out that changing it, based on the way the bill is today, you might have a problem if we change it. I think that if you looked at it in a different sense, it just makes more sense than a person who comes into Bridgeport with an ounce of powder Cocaine who sells it to street level dealers, they cook it up, they get sentenced at a higher penalty if they're caught with an ounce or a gram of Crack/Cocaine.
So if you look at it in that form, I think you will look at it and have a different opinion.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Well sir, I appreciate your comments. Let me put it to you this way. You have a person who has some stolen iron and they take that stolen iron and they forge it into a sword and then they use that sword. They've taken a substance and they've made it more lethal.
A person who takes powder Cocaine and converts it into Crack/Cocaine is making a more addictive and dangerous substance that goes a lot further. If a person comes into a city with an ounce of Cocaine as compared to a lesser ounce of Crack/Cocaine, an ounce of Cocaine is going to get him probably the same amount of a sentence because it's a larger amount than the Crack/Cocaine as ---
(inaudible-tape switched from side 2A to side 2B - some testimony not recorded)
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: -- they are not addicts themselves. And the people they're hurting are the people in that inner-city.
SEN. NEWTON: But Chris, let's just -- and I'm finished because --
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: And I'll let you get the last word.
SEN. NEWTON: It just makes more sense that if a person comes -- because we all know that powder Cocaine is a rich person's drug. Crack/Cocaine is for people who can't afford the Cocaine. They can't afford it.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Buy it in smaller amounts, correct.
SEN. NEWTON: They can't afford it. Then if you bring it in and they cook it up, it just makes sense that we need to stop the demand of the people bringing it in on the powder end, give them stiffer penalties so you wouldn't have the demand on the other side to cook it up and I don't think that's happening the way our law is written today -- I won't say smack a person on the hand that sells powder Cocaine, but we sure take a great defense on people who sell Crack or dealers who use it and not even use it, but sell it, at a higher penalty than we do with the person who brings it in so that they cook it up and I think we need to just look at that.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: I think they're treated the same, but we'll differ on that.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Representative Carter.
REP. CARTER: Thank you very much. I'll tell you, I'm a novice when it comes to Cocaine, Crack/Cocaine or whatever it is. So let me tell you, I feel this way. Even when we were back in prohibition and they were selling alcohol and it was against the law, it was against the law. If you're selling Crack/Cocaine, it's against the law. If you sell powder Cocaine, it's against the law. And I think that anybody whose selling it ought to go to jail because they know it's against the law.
So that's where I come from and I did vote on some of these laws that we have up here. When you're breaking the law, you're breaking the law. You may justify it anyway you want to justify it and we can talk about it here all day or cooking it, cracking it, boiling it, smoking it, it's wrong. It is wrong. And that's where we ought to be. We ought to be trying to see how we can deal with -- whether you're White or whether you're Black, whether in the inner-city or in the suburbs. You're selling the Crack, go to jail.
REP. DYSON: I think Representative Carter feels strongly about this, so thank you very much.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: I think she needs to learn to express herself.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much, Mr. Morano.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Thank you. And Representative, you and I always don't agree, but I agree with that one.
REP. DYSON: Okay, I'll talk to her later.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER L. MORANO: Can I go now?
REP. DYSON: Yes, thank you very much. Next, we'll have Commissioner Lantz, Corrections. Commissioner, how are you doing?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I'm doing fine, Representative Dyson, thank you.
Good afternoon, Chairman Dyson, Chairman Harp, Chairman Lawlor and the honorable members of the Appropriations and Judiciary Committees.
I am pleased to come before you to address the issue of prison overcrowding in Connecticut and I am happy to be part of the continuing dialogue and resolution of this issue.
I've had the opportunity to review the working draft bill proposal, LCO 8132, AN ACT CONCERNING PRISON OVERCROWDING and would like to provide my thoughts as they pertain to this bill and follow-up with some general remarks potential issues for consideration as we continue to address this very important matter.
Section 1 of the proposed draft would merge the Board of Pardons and the Board of Parole and include the combined boards within the Department of Correction for administrative purposes only. This proposal contains provisions that differ from the very recent changes that have been instituted during the 2003 Special Legislative Session. Public Act 03-6, AN ACT CONCERNING GENERAL BUDGET AND REVENUE PROVISIONS, specifically Sections 160 and 161, which was effective upon passage, places both the Board of Pardons and the Board of Parole within the Department of Correction. This act supports maintaining autonomy within the decision-making authority of both boards.
Equally as important, it emphasizes a collaboration of agency resources that were significantly enhanced ongoing in necessary efforts to develop successful strategies for offenders who are eligible for community re-entry.
This merger will provide for coordinated utilization of available community programs. In fact, the financial benefits will be advantageous as we partner with our community providers.
The continuum of care, custody, and control, coupled with greater focus on wrap around services will serve the dual purposes of public safety and successful community re-entry of offenders.
Furthermore, the merger will also provide a more consistent and rational approach to manage offenders who violate the technical provisions of community release through parole, transitional supervision, or halfway house placement. I believe the recently passed act best serves the goal of my agency and successful community re-entry of offenders.
Section 3 of this draft proposal, specifically subsections D and E, will create presumptive release mandates that I addressed during the last joint forum on April 3, 2003. During that hearing, I asked members of the General Assembly to consider the successes and benefits that truth in sentencing mandates have provided. Any initiative aimed at addressing the issues of crowding in our system should speak to release options that balance the good intentions of truth in sentencing, meaningful and consistent sentences, with policies that are aligned to initiatives that promote public safety, offender accountability, and offender responsibility to become law abiding citizens.
In addition, discretion for discharge should take into consideration the totality of the offender's criminal history and not just the instant offense.
I would also like to add that the proposed language, upon passage, may precipitate a mass release of offenders into the community. This does not serve the best interest of communities and will undoubtedly overwhelm already limited community resources and may also create public safety concerns with increased potential for community re-victimization.
Other sections within this proposal that pertain to parole certainly have merit and should be considered as either internal policy, regulation, or legislative mandates.
The Alternatives to Incarceration Advisory Committee, which was recently established, is obligated by statute to consider measures that will "streamline the parole process to encourage early release of prisoners if the Department of Correction Commissioner considers it appropriate."
As the Chairperson of this committee, which has its first meeting scheduled for October 2nd, I can assure you that we will be evaluating the parole process in its totality and will develop sensible and manageable release options for future implementation.
Connecticut is now one of 40 states that currently maintain an integrated parole and correction system. I believe it is incumbent upon me, as Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, to research and evaluate the best practices that exist within all available resources so that we can establish a comprehensive model that will foster successful re-entry into the community.
One of the things I heard from our speakers was the importance of collaboration in getting other agencies, other stakeholders, other disciplines and other recommendations and knowledge and so forth together to look at this issue. And I appreciated those comments.
Section 11 of this proposal eliminates the use of a private vendor for out-of-state placement offenders. I have a concern that removing this option will place obvious limitations on my ability to seek competitive bidding and financially prudent options for out-of-state placements and I respectfully urge the General Assembly to maintain the existing language we have to ensure the flexibility that our population demands create.
Section 14 of this proposal will add language to existing statute to include the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services within the Prison and Jail Overcrowding Commission. I believe that the Commission will greatly benefit from this inclusion.
Section 26 requires that the DOC shall not, later than October 1, 2003, issue a request for a proposal for a community justice center. Such request shall have a capacity of not less than 500 beds, be located in the City of Hartford, and be operated by a nonprofit corporation.
As you are aware, this timeframe would be rather unreasonable if this proposal were enacted and I would suggest amending the proposed date to a more achievable timeframe of January, 2004.
The community justice center is a worthy concept. We are tentatively scheduled to open our first 110-bed center for women offenders on the grounds of the York Correctional Institution in Niantic hopefully in January, 2004. We have proposals from seven service providers. They're currently being evaluated by representatives from DOC, the Board of Parole, and the Court Support Services Division within the judicial branch. And I hope that we will have an award by November, 2003.
Section 29 specifically reallocates funds appropriated to the Department of Correction for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004 for prison overcrowding initiatives. These initiatives all have merit, but I would hope that they would be considered with all options that are developed by the Alternatives to Incarceration Advisory Committee.
As of September 22, 2003, the Department of Correction maintains in custody about 1,500 offenders who are approved for a pre-determined community release placement. In most cases, this population is eligible and is awaiting placement in the community, specifically halfway houses, about 74% of that 1,500 is awaiting a halfway house bed.
This is clearly not an optimal situation and we are in the midst of working within our existing appropriation to address this issue. These include a review of our contracts, establishment of effective performance measures for providers, and analysis of successful best practices, and I would probably be recommending, in the near future, a legislative amendment.
I believe that we need to concentrate on this population as one of our priorities to provide fair and meaningful programs that will focus on successful community integration. It is my intention to focus on three public safety community re-entry outcomes.
Reduce re-victimization, reduce recidivism, and control the cost of community-based accountability.
In closing, I can assure you that my agency will work hand-in-hand with the Prison and Jail Overcrowding Commission, the Alternatives to Incarceration Advisory Committee, the Council of State Governments, legislators, the U.S. Department of Justice, other state agencies, and all other criminal justice related entities dedicated to this issue.
The process may take longer than others may be willing to accept, and I can certainly understand the motivation to move forward as quickly as possible. However, I must also emphasize that the application of these initiatives will be the telling mark of our success and that will take time and extensive, deliberate, and thoughtful planning.
We have already seen the outcome of release mechanisms in other states that have implemented mass releases of financially driven necessity. Initial outcomes tell us that they have been problematic, especially in the area of re-victimization in the community. As I'm sure you will agree, we all want this to work in the best interest of public safety.
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to speak. I tried to speak as fast as I could and I'm available for questions.
REP. DYSON: I noticed that you did and we appreciate that very much. Representative Olson.
REP. OLSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Good afternoon.
REP. OLSON: I have a few questions for you this afternoon. Number one, in Public Act 03-06 that was passed in the June 30, 2003 Special Session, we gave authority to send out 2,000 inmates, 2,000 of our Connecticut inmates out-of-state. Number one, where do you plan on sending those inmates? What states?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, there's a few things that we are currently working on. We have 500 in Virginia. So the public act actually gave us an extra 2,000 on top of that 500. We are continuing discussions with Virginia Department of Correction to house more individuals at the Greensville facility where we currently have our 500.
The rest of the numbers, we're in the process of working with other federal supports to establish a comprehensive request for proposal that we would put out around the country. So we're in the process of doing an RFP. We're also in the process of further discussions with Virginia Department of Correction.
REP. OLSON: And when you say you're putting out an RFP, Commissioner, there must be some states that have these facilities that would be available to us. You don't have any indication of which facilities or which states that would have -- that you're looking at specifically?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, when you do an RFP, you're sending it out across the country and the public act gives the authorization to allow for private, public, government agencies to respond. So, I can tell you that there's well over twenty states that contract out for the private prisons. I can tell you that there are other states that also have some facilities that they maybe willing -- in government, they maybe willing to give out or contract out some of the beds. I would be -- I would really want to make sure that the RFP gets out there because there may even be some municipalities that I'm not aware of. So I want to get a broad based information and response.
REP. OLSON: Okay, so you're saying that there are twenty states that have private facilities.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: There are over twenty states that have -- that contract with private prisons.
REP. OLSON: I don't want you, by any means, to go through all twenty, but could you just give us a sampling of what states have the private facilities?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, New Mexico, Tennessee, Louisiana, Virginia, Rhode Island -- that's a federal contract. Rhode Island Wyatt. So there are a number of states that have that. The other thing is that federal Bureau of Prisons is probably the largest contractor to private prisons and I believe they have -- private prisons today have over 90,000 inmates in them, but again, I'm not just concentrating on privatization. I would like to see what is out there available across the country in all means. That's why I would like to have a broad breadth response.
REP. OLSON: Okay. Can you remind us, as well, what did we set aside for the 2,000 prisoners to be sent out in the latest biennium budget?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I'm sorry, I would have to get back to you. I'm not sure of the exact amount. The Virginia contract for the 500 runs about $12 million. The RFP would probably give us a real indication of what that cost would be for the rest of those beds.
REP. OLSON: And when is the RFP going out? I'm sorry, I missed that.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I'm trying to get the RFP ready now for release in the next few months. It's a very laborious process and I will be asking for some assistance from other jurisdictions who have more experience with it.
REP. OLSON: And you indicated that it's $12 million for the 500 inmates in Virginia. Do you have a breakdown of what that is per inmate? I'm not very good at math.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: No, it's $64, $64 per day.
REP. OLSON: Okay. And do -- okay. And in sending out 2,000 inmates, under the authority that was granted to you, do you have a plan on closing any existing facilities in --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I do not have any intention or plan of closing facilities.
REP. OLSON: Okay. Okay, I have no further questions, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Representative Green.
REP. GREEN: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Let me follow-up first on the question that I think Representative Olson just asked. If you don't plan to close any prisons, and put 2,000 inmates out, is your thought here, that transferring the 2,000 prisoners -- what is the purpose, to reduce overcrowding, to make more beds available because the thought here -- this whole informational forum is about prison overcrowding. So maybe we do send a number. It is not your intention that the numbers will be reduced? The prison population? You anticipate that it's going to continue to increase?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, the projections have historically shown that the population increases and has been increasing. I think I'm looking at two areas. Number one, address the population that I currently have and assess and evaluate and work on the Incarceration Alternatives Committee to see how we can better address the re-entry process, the strategies being utilized and so forth.
The 2,000 out-of-state, I had no intention of closing a full correctional facility, but there certainly are areas that certain housing units, places where we have inmates that are not optimal conditions, gyms, offices, housing units that were temporary over fifteen years ago that we're still operating as a permanent area.
There are some areas in our facilities that I do not think are optimal for the security level that the inmates are in and how we're managing them. I would definitely be looking at reallocating not only my inmate population, but also my staffing.
REP. GREEN: Do you anticipate then that in the next few years that you will need to build another prison, based on these projections of the increase in prison population?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Representative Green, I am going to do everything in my effort to stop the building process and the out-of-state beds was an alternative to the expansion project that was discussed to bridge the Northern and Osborne Correctional Facilities for another 720 additional beds. That is not in the biennium budget. That is not funded in capital bonding and that would be my intent, that we would not have to expand, that we could continue to work collaboratively with all the state agencies, the Legislature, the best practices that are in the field to address that population that we currently have and also address the crowding situation that we have and manage those inmates appropriately, efficiently, and safely.
REP. GREEN: Can you try to clarify for me -- I've heard different things. Do we have any prisons that are built and could possibly be used to house prisoners that we're not using?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: We have -- I have no buildings -- I have no facilities that are sitting empty.
REP. GREEN: I've heard a lot about the prison population and the whole connection with the drugs and I think the Chief State's Attorney talked about the complication we have with the local police chiefs about, you know, why we're seeing so many people incarcerated and drugs come up a lot.
Can you tell me, what is the Correction's programming or assessment of the need for inmates for either drug addiction services and are those services available? Supposedly, drugs are connected with so many people going to jail. Are you seeing in Corrections that the individuals going are users or non-users and what's the need of treatment services and what do you offer?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, I think, as you look at our assessment and we have the individuals come in and we do an assessment on the inmates coming into our system, the offenders coming into our system, I think you're seeing a significant substance abuse history among those offenders as far as the numbers. I'd say probably 85% of those offenders coming into our system have a history of substance abuse.
We have a four-tiered program in the agency. And the first tier is the education. The second is more of the group activity involvement AANA. The third is more intensive drug addiction services. The fourth is a therapeutic community and we have two therapeutic communities.
Generally in the field of substance abuse, therapeutic communities are generally considered the most successful and we have one at the Women's facility, which has been written up by the Justice Department as a model. We also have one at our Manson Youth Institution to address substance abuse and that therapeutic community is doing very well, as well.
REP. GREEN: Let me just ask you. Have you done any research to find out if those individuals in those programs, what's the recidivism rate of those individuals versus others who are not in those programs?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, Brown University actually did a study and I'd be more than glad to send it to you and it was a very favorable study that said that our addiction services programs did impact recidivism compared to those who had not attended substance abuse.
I will tell you that my substance abuse resources for addiction services is not huge in the sense of not everybody who comes in gets the one through four level of treatment. However, just about everybody gets one and has access to two and then we sort of have to work our way up, based on our limited resources.
The Brown University study was fairly favorable on behalf of the agency's treatment of substance abuse and, again, I'd be more than glad to share that with you.
REP. GREEN: I guess on your advisory committee on alternatives, it appears that if 85% are assessed as being substance users and the report said that this is the best program that reduces recidivism and one of your goals here is to reduce recidivism, that we connect those and that the effort I think on our part should be how well we use the money so that I think you have a greater argument with where we should be putting the resources, if you're saying that's what's happening.
And I'm hoping that we're listening to you say that as we offer our comments.
Let me ask you about those individuals who are in the prisons who are awaiting trial and are on bond? Have you any thoughts on whether or not the bond system, the ability to make bond contributes to more people in your system or not and do you have any ways to reduce that to maybe, again, release or reduce the amount of individuals incarcerated?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, I'll tell you, Representative Green, unfortunately I'm not an expert on bail and bond and I know the Legislative Program Review Committee has recently done a study and has offered some recommendations and some suggestions and has had a public hearing, as well.
We did have a program, the Jail Re-Interview Program, that I thought was very successful, that the CSSD Probation Department was running and that did have a significant impact on getting offenders out of our system who were considered not a public risk, threat and they were coming into the facilities. They were doing the interviews, they were doing the assessing, working with the judges, and that did have a good impact on our population, our pretrial population.
Due to budget cuts, layoffs, and so forth, CSSD stopped the program.
REP. GREEN: One last question. So I think I notice, at least in the Hartford Correction Institution, that you're expanding. Is that true? Are you expanding the Hartford Correctional Institution?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: It's a renovation. It's a permanent upgrade. There are a number of areas that needed to be renovated, addressed.
REP. GREEN: (inaudible) beds?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I'm not aware of any beds that are being added to that.
REP. GREEN: So you don't see a trend in any beds to some of these holding institutions?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I have not looked at adding beds to the older -- for instance, Hartford Jail, New Haven Jail, and Bridgeport Jail are under consent decree and there is a restriction, as well as some other parts of the agencies. There are some restrictions on the amount of beds I could add anyway.
REP. GREEN: Thank you. Sorry, one further question. I forgot this one. Mr. Chair, if I could?
REP. DYSON: Go right ahead.
REP. GREEN: Community Justice Center. You said that you felt that there's some -- it has a laudable mission. Can you tell me what you think community justice centers are and what would this community justice center in Hartford offer?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: The Community Justice Center is a multi-discipline approach to dealing with the offenders. It's to work with those individuals who need intensive discharge planning and the wrap around services. We hope that that will enable us to make the connections in the community and the support systems so that the defender has, while they're in the CJC, they have an opportunity to make those connections and they're established and when they're released, they have an opportunity to utilize those support systems.
It also is a place where you could do an incremental sanction or graduated sanction. The individual who has some dirty urines or has some issues, you put them back into the CJC. Again, you're doing an intensive assessment and evaluation and trying to wrap around services, provide the intensive services so that when you can put them back out there fairly quickly.
It also, hopefully, will have an avenue where we would be able to work with probation for technical violators, parole for technical violators, and I'm interested also in the mental health piece, how the CJC can really make the connection with that. That's the design that we have for the women that would be somewhat replicated for the men or that's what I would be looking for in the RFP proposal for the men at Hartford.
I really believe that if you want a successful re-entry program, especially in Connecticut where the majority of our offenders are coming out of the major cities of Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven, that a CJC located in those cities, connected to the services that are there, right there in the community, and that's where the offender comes from, then I think if we can make those connections and establish those support systems, that it would be more beneficial for reduction of recidivism, re-victimization.
REP. GREEN: And just a comment. In terms of mental health and the mental illness prison population, I think we really need to address that as a possible way to reduce the overcrowding.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I agree. I agree.
REP. DYSON: Thank you. Senator Newton, followed by Representative O'Neill.
SEN. NEWTON: Thank you, Commissioner. Just a thought and I know that we're overcrowded now and your predecessor, we put 2,000 new inmates to be shipped out of Connecticut to those places we have contracts with.
The program, from my understanding, was set up to send gang members, separate them from the population to send them out-of-state, but what we found out was they were sending people with mental illness, they were sending low level individuals to these out-of-state prisons. How is that set up? Who goes to out-of-state facilities so that maybe I have a clear understanding?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, I can give you the Virginia right now. Those were high security inmates. They were not low level security. The ones that are at Greensville right now are high security level four and there is a set criteria that we use to screen the inmates, as well as Virginia also screens them, as well for compatibility with their system in their facility. And mental health is one of the criteria that's looked at as far as an assessment of their status and their needs and whether or not they're best to stay here in Connecticut where we would address them through our in-house contract.
So we do a full assessment. We have set criteria for who we send down there. These are high security inmates. They are -- the criteria calls for a low level mental health needs.
SEN. NEWTON: Well, just my understanding from your predecessor, I thought it was for gang members to be separated out of our prison systems. Those were the individuals, people that we were sending. And I don't have to remind you of the individuals from Bridgeport who weren't high risk. I think one had six months. He was going to be released in six months, but he's in Virginia.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I'm not aware of that, Senator. That wouldn't even meet our criteria.
SEN. NEWTON: But he was there. They were there in Virginia. So I'm just trying to get a clarification. Are we sending inmates who are gang related to separate them outside of our population or are we just sending anybody to out-of-state prisons? That's what I'm asking you.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, I think there is set criteria. There is set criteria to who goes to Greensville. A designated security risk group threat member would not go to Virginia. They're not a the level at Greensville to handle a serious, serious leader of a gang. We would keep them in Connecticut.
We do have individuals that are high security. They are level four. They do have sentences. Sending somebody down there for six months would not be productive for me. That would not meet my needs and would not meet the individual's needs. So that's not who I want to send to Greensville.
So, the criteria for the individuals going to Greensville, again, we do a full analysis, a medical and mental health assessment, we do the security risk assessment, which is the gang affiliation and so forth. Rawlings Ridge was the super-max. There were gang members sent there. Gang members in Connecticut, if you are designated as a security risk group threat member, you're going to be a level four. Now, those individuals, if they are a threat member, are generally staying with us right now. That does not mean, as part of the RFP process, I might not take a serious look at that. Again, with the relationship that we have with Virginia right now, that is not a person I'm sending down at this moment.
SEN. NEWTON: Okay, because I know some of the inmates we did send down to Virginia --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: In the past.
SEN. NEWTON: -- in the past, fell in that six month criteria and the person who -- I don't have to tell you, was from Bridgeport, both of the gentlemen died, sued the State. The State had to settle the claim.
The other thing, Senator Coleman and I were doing some math and you gave us the figure on how much it would cost to send prisoners out-of-state and we looked at how much it cost to house a prisoner, around $25,000. We multiplied that times the figure you gave us. The only thing we're saving by sending prisoners out-of-state, am I right, Senator Coleman, is about $500,000. We're paying $12 million, I think you said $12 million --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Twelve million for the 500 at $64 per day.
SEN. NEWTON: So if send 2,000 out --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I would hope it would be cheaper than $64 per day.
SEN. NEWTON: But I'm just saying there is no savings.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, I think there might be some significant savings, but I'll know more once I send out the Request for Proposal. It costs about $73 per day on an average cost for an inmate in Connecticut. That does not include the fringe benefits associated with the staff, okay. So the $64 a day in Virginia versus the average expenditure for an inmate in Connecticut, being about $73, and that would be a minimum expenditure for a high security Level Four inmate. There is a dollar difference there. I would hope, Senator, that the RFP, the responses that I receive from the RFP would actually beat that $64 a day and that would be one of my considerations.
SEN. NEWTON: I'm just looking at what we've done in the past. I don't know what you have planned for the future. I'm looking at what we've spent in the past with Virginia, 500 prisoners at those figures, I would assume the figures I've heard to house a prisoner is about $25,000.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, it's actually closer to $27,000 - $28,000 in Connecticut.
SEN. NEWTON: Okay. So if you look at that figure on what we're spending to send our inmates out-of-state, I don't see a great significant savings on what it costs us to house them here.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I would say this, Senator, that there is a cost savings, I believe. And that can be argued, but the most important thing I think we need to understand is that the reason we went to Virginia, out-of-state is because I didn't -- we don't have room for 500 inmates to come back in our system. I don't have that many beds available and I already have people sleeping on gym floors. I already have people sleeping in areas -- when I say gym floors, please understand they're not on the floor, they're in beds, they're in portable beds, but they're being housed in areas that were never designed to house offenders.
The only thing I can think of worse of not sending inmates back down to Virginia or out-of-state is if I had them, I would have to manage them with the limited resources and I'm trying to be fiscally prudent, trying to be efficient and an effective manager. It would be very difficult for my staff, as good as they are, and I think they're the best in the country, as good as they are, it would be difficult for them to try to manage an extra 500 inmates, in my system, in areas that I do not have secure and were not intended to be built.
The Virginia was -- I don't want to say a compromise, but an option that we used to better manage a high security population, hopefully more efficiently and economically, but even more important, it increases and enhances the security of our facilities in my agency overall, staff safety, public safety, and inmate safety. I do not have the room for 500 inmates to come back from Virginia.
That was the real reason, initially. That was the main focus. The money was secondary to the safety of staff and the public.
SEN. NEWTON: But just to follow-up and to move on. We found out that we were sending people who weren't high risk people down to Virginia and I mean, we found that to be. That's not something I make up. That's something that's true.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: No, Senator, I will certainly do an audit and ensure that we're sending -- that we're meeting the criteria. I have a double system in place. I have our system of identifying the inmates and reviewing the criteria and I have Virginia who reviews the criteria, as well. So I certainly, I certainly will do an audit and ensure that we are sending the appropriate individuals there.
SEN. NEWTON: Okay. Just another point. I'm finding out and maybe you're not the person to ask this --
REP. DYSON: Maybe you could kind of wrap it up, Senator.
SEN. NEWTON: -- question to. I'm finding out and this is something that you can look at with the Pardon Board, that a lot of people in our society today have a number one problem and I know the bill touches on it a little bit. You have people who work every day, productive members of society, who haven't gotten in trouble in ten, fifteen years, cannot get a pardon to wipe their record clear. Do you have anything that you could -- that we can do to maybe change that because people are being held accountable for the sins that they did twenty years ago, never been in trouble, living as a productive member of society, married, family, but that stigma still holds over their head, that they have a felony and I know the bill addresses it a little bit. I don't know if the appropriate person to maybe speak on this, but it's a big problem in our society today and maybe you have some thoughts on it.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, I can -- the statutory authority, the discretionary authority that the Parole Board has and the Board of Pardons has, they maintain in the current act that's been passed as well as, I believe, this proposal, as well.
Certainly, those are issues that we need to look at for the Alternatives to Incarceration Committee because I think they do impact the ability for individuals, for long term and for job future and perhaps it may give people motivation to not get in trouble or to find themselves in difficult situations.
I agree with you, I think it's something we should definitely be looking at.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Representative O'Neill, followed by Representative Hamm.
REP. O'NEILL: Yes, thank you. In your testimony you've said we've already seen the outcome of release mechanisms in other states that have implemented mass release as a financially driven necessity. The initial outcomes tell us that they have been problematic, especially in the area of re-victimization in the community.
And I was wondering, is this based on some sort of report that's been done?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Actually, it was an experience in Kentucky and I think there's a couple of other states, as well, where they did a mass release of offenders for budget reasons and there were some serious crimes committed by some of these individuals that were released and the Governor actually stopped the program.
So there is some experience with that, that has pretty much -- it was covered nationally and it was something that I was very interested in looking at. So, the State is Kentucky and there are some other -- I think there are some other states, as well, that looked at some options and they did it -- one of the things that I'm very interested in is not releasing offenders because it is fiscally attractive. I think what we need to do is be very comprehensive. We need to be very deliberate. We need to establish a committee, which I think the Alternatives to Incarceration Advisory Committee does made up of the major organizations and including, encompassing and looking at judicial, the providers in the community, looking at input from them, looking at the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
I think we need to have a very comprehensive, thoughtful planning process because it's not just a corrections issues, it is a community issue. It's a public safety issue and I think the more people that we involve in the strategic planning, it increases our opportunities for success.
So what I don't want to do is to get into okay, if we release 3,000 inmates, we can save "x" amount of dollars. I don't want that to be our strategic plan to come into the state budget, but I do think that -- and I believe that this proposal and other proposals and so forth, I think the intent is to be deliberate, to get a comprehensive committee together to look at all the issues and it can't be a committee made-up of myself and the chief of an organization or a commissioner of another organization. It needs to be made-up of the people who are doing the job. We need their recommendations. We need their suggestions.
So it's got to be more -- it's got to be a very inclusive and very extensive and think we can come up and I really believe this as the chairperson of this committee, I think we can come up with a very balanced approach that balances public safety. It balances offender accountability, and it balances the need to reduce recidivism and re-victimization, and it balances the cost that the State must pay for this and that's my goal and that's where I would like to go.
REP. O'NEILL: If I could -- during the conversation with Senator Newton and others, actually, a couple of things came up. You mentioned that 85% of the folks incarcerated have a history of substance abuse.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Correct.
REP. O'NEILL: Does that 85% include or the substance that you're talking about with that 85%, does that include alcohol?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yes, it does.
REP. O'NEILL: Do you have any idea what the percentage of the prohibitive narcotics, heroine, cocaine, marijuana, not the alcohol, which is generally a legal product, is alcohol a big share of that 85% or a small share?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I think it's a -- well, you know, the issue, Representative O'Neill, is the multi-substance abuse. It's not just alcohol. It's alcohol and something else. What we see is the multi-substance abuse. As you said, alcohol is not necessarily, unless it's a DWI or whatever, it's not necessarily a criminal offense. I can tell you that the sale of hallucinogens, narcotic substances and possession of narcotics, is about -- is over 15% of my population. It's almost 16% of my population are those two charges.
The number one charge is violation of probation or conditional discharge. That's the number one charge in my system. There are over 2,500 offenders incarcerated for that charge and that's about a little over 13% of my population has that as a charge, a controlling charge.
REP. O'NEILL: Well, it probably is inaccurate to say this, but if 15% of your underlying population is there for an original offense involving narcotics, the ones that are prohibitive --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: The controlling charge.
REP. O'NEILL: -- controlled substance laws, is the 2,500 made-up of a disproportionately large percentage? Is it more than 15% of those 2,500 people? In other words, people were talking a great deal about he comes back with a dirty test, so he goes back in, kind of thing, as the reason why a large number of the parole violations occur.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Of the 1,500 who are Level One offenders and I wanted to run some statistics in case this was brought up, of that 1,500, 20% are for violation of probation. And 40% are substance abuse. Forty percent are substance abuse. These are the types of --
REP. DYSON: These are Level One?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yes. Yes, sir. So, if you look at -- I'll share something else with you. Fifty-nine percent of that 1,500 have a prior sentenced incarceration experience. And so, that's significant too.
REP. DYSON: Which means they're back for at least a second time.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: At least. At least. A second time. And I think that probably precipitates -- the behavior is one of the reasons why they get violated.
REP. DYSON: May I, Representative O'Neill?
REP. O'NEILL: Yes, please.
REP. DYSON: The 1,500 that you referred to are Level Ones?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yes, sir.
REP. DYSON: Level Ones are what? What kind of people are there? Why are they class Level One?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: They're the lowest level of classification security risk. So, our classification system is one through five. And one is generally those individuals who are eligible or have the potential for community reintegration. And we have 1,500 of them in our system right now.
REP. DYSON: And the reasons you still have the 1,500 in your possession, not because you necessarily want to keep them, but it's because we are lacking in what?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Seventy-four percent of that number are awaiting a halfway house placement.
REP. DYSON: So we are short on halfway beds?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I think the halfway house is certainly a critical benefit to offenders. We're short on -- I think there are some resources. I think the communities have limited available resources to support the individuals being released and we continue to have 100% capacity in the halfway house beds that we contract for. Both Parole and the Department of Correction contracts for halfway houses and we are at our -- we're always full, we always use those beds.
Now, there maybe some legislative options that I maybe asking for and that is to provide perhaps more discretion for me to be able to spend amounts of time in that bed to reduce it as needed so that that bed gets turned over more so I get more people out.
REP. DYSON: Let me pursue this.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Okay.
REP. DYSON: If we have 100% utilization of beds that are presently contracted for now by Judicial, Parole, and whatever, and we have 1,500 that could, for whatever reason, 74% of that 1,500, could be out in a halfway house, then would it be fair to say that the problem that you're confronted now at this point is the absence of the availability of additional beds?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: It would seem to translate to that, Representative Dyson. I certainly have an appropriation that I exhaust. I don't not expend money for the halfway house beds. I do wonder whether or not there are other options other than halfway houses that give us the same sort of structure, accountability that serve and support the re-entry offender and I think we're utilizing halfway house beds because that's what we think is the best alternative we can have at the moment, but there maybe some opportunities, through the Alternatives to Incarceration Committee, to come up with some other avenues.
One of the biggest issues that we face is homelessness. We also face the job. But we do have a situation of homelessness and the halfway house bed serves that means. It's very difficult for me -- and the homeless shelters are also full. It would be very difficult for me, in good conscience and public safety interest, release an individual on transitional supervision to a homeless shelter. It's very difficult to do that.
REP. DYSON: But given, hypothetically now, we confine at a cost of some number.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Twenty-seven thousand, roughly.
REP. DYSON: We have 1,500 that could or would or whatever. --
(Inaudible-Tape switched from side 2B to side 3A-some testimony/dialogue not recorded)
REP. DYSON: --- 27,000 if we could find a place outside for an individual.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: It -- I don't want to convolute your answer. And that's why there are so many factors.
The Level Ones are generally housed at a much cheaper facility than the -- in other words, their cost of incarceration, because they're at a minimum security facility, Representative, their cost of incarceration is less than the -- slightly less than the $27,000. The $27,000 is the average.
You find that the cost of halfway house beds, in some instances, are more than the cost of a minimum security bed in our system, so I have to balance that, as well.
REP. DYSON: Okay, let me ask this. Do you intend to reduce the number of beds that you presently have at your disposal?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Representative Dyson, my population needs are at the high security level. For instance, I need Level Four beds. The Level One beds, yes, those are low level, dormitory-style. Certainly, it would be wonderful to be able to do successful re-entry strategies, but to put a Level One in a Level Four bed would not be prudent and would not be necessary and would not be cost effective. So there's a different level inmate that I deal with and there's a different cost level.
REP. DYSON: But just so I'm clear, do we intend to reduce any beds that we have?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: In my facilities? Well, I would think --
REP. DYSON: Outside, those that you contract for?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Oh, outside. Okay, thank you. Outside. No, my budget is in place. I have 680 bed halfway houses in my budget. Parole has about 75 halfway house beds and I keep them full.
REP. DYSON: So there is no intention to reduce any beds?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Not at this time. I have not looked at --
REP. DYSON: Okay. What about tomorrow?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, I don't know, sir. I have to work within my appropriated budget, sir and I will do everything I can to look at other avenues besides halfway house beds to reduce this Level One population, as well as impact the recidivist rate or the return rate or the technical violation rate.
It's all so -- it's so difficult to take one little piece without looking at the -- trying to look at the total picture without getting overwhelmed by the total picture. And I don't -- I'm not getting overwhelmed. I refuse to get overwhelmed. I am emphatic about getting the people who know what's going on out there because I'm not expert on everything in the community. I'm certainly not an expert in substance abuse and all other areas. I'm an organizational person. I try to be a good strategic planner and I do believe that the committee that I have a statutory authority to chair will be comprehensive and can give us a good plan and look at these areas.
REP. DYSON: Okay, Representative O'Neill, do you want to continue with your questioning?
REP. O'NEILL: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We were talking a little bit about cost and I know you don't want to talk about cost, but this is a joint hearing of the Judiciary --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I've talked about as much cost as I can, sir.
REP. O'NEILL: Well, as a driver of the decisions here. But you said the Level One beds are cheaper to operate than the $27,000, I guess, average figure --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Depending on the facility. Each facility has a little different operating innuendoes because of nuances, because of the architecture, the staffing. Staffing is an important part of my budget.
REP. O'NEILL: Just as a general, do you have like a rule of thumb, a basic number? Are we talking about an average of $20,000 or $15,000 or some number like that? I mean, is it like half the cost or two-thirds or --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: No, it would be anywhere -- I would say for a Level One bed, it would be in -- in a minimum bed security facility, anywhere between $20,000 and $22,000 - $23,000, somewhere in that range.
REP. O'NEILL: And what's the price of the halfway house placement?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: It depends on what the focus of the halfway house bed. If it's a substance abuse bed, it could be 25 - 26. If it's a mental health bed, --
REP. O'NEILL: I'm sorry. Twenty-five, twenty-six thousand?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Sure.
REP. O'NEILL: So a halfway house bed --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Now, there maybe beds that are cheaper, Representative O'Neill. I'm just saying that as an average, you get -- most of the halfway house beds are in the $20,000 and above. You look at a mental health bed, that's even more expensive. In fact, when we did an RFI, a Request for Information, I didn't have anybody write in to say they had available mental health halfway house beds above and beyond what there currently is. Those are even more expensive. Women and children halfway house beds run $35,000. So even halfway house beds specialize in the support services and the wrap around areas that they also deliver the services they deliver.
That's a contract. We put it out. We contract with them based on our needs.
REP. O'NEILL: So, I don't want to over-simplify or put words in your mouth, but the impression I'm getting is then that if somebody assumes or if someone were to go around saying well, we should take people out of prison and put them into programs that are in the community, halfway houses and things like those types of things. I know you mentioned there might be alternatives to the halfway house, but the current package of the 675 beds that you and is it Parole?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yes, 680 and 75.
REP. O'NEILL: Six eighty and seventy-five. So those 700 and change beds. We're looking at prices that are not much different from -- perhaps even higher than minimum security incarceration.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: The advantage would be how fast you turn that bed over. I think the advantage is public safety. I think the advantage is trying to get people to have a service, a re-entry strategy when they get released so they don't come back.
I would prefer that everybody get released under some form of accountability such as some supervision. So, I think there are some ways that you can get more service out of the one bed in the halfway house.
REP. O'NEILL: Well, what is the typical time that someone might spend --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: It might be six months.
REP. O'NEILL: And what's the time that these people, the 1,500 Level One folks that you're -- are available for release but 74% can't find a community placement of some sort? How much time is left on their sentence, their parole?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: It could be months. It could be six months, it could be eight, nine months.
REP. O'NEILL: So it's comparable in terms of timeframe to what they would spend in a halfway house?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yeah, the difference that I would want to look at is how many people do you put through a halfway house bed. How many people can you get to have that service and then transition back into the community quicker. Rather than just sitting in a bed for nine months, I may be able to have a bed for nine months in a halfway house that I could turn over quicker. Do you see what I'm saying? I could put maybe two or three people through that one bed as opposed to the individual sitting in a prison bed.
So these are some of the things -- I may not have the full answer for you, but these are some of the things I want to look at. These are some of the things that I need we need to look at to see where do we provide the public safety aspect because when they're locked up -- the Department of Correction and I, God bless the staff, are pretty good at protecting the public because these guys are not escaping. We do a good job in Corrections in confinement, we do an excellent job. You should be incredibly proud of this agency and the staff that work in these facilities.
So that's number one.
We need to do a good job of preparing the offender for community release. We need to do a good job of reinforcing personal responsibility. We need to do a good job of accountability strategies when they're released to the community, and we need to partner not only with the nonprofit community, but the cities and municipalities because these individuals are going back into those communities. This is not just a Corrections problem. This is a community public safety issue.
REP. O'NEILL: And I'll stop at just one very last thing. In terms of the halfway houses, and you said that 59% of the drug offenders are, in fact, re-offenders that you have with you know. I think that was the number you gave us.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: The 59% of the individuals of the 1,500 have a prior incarceration history.
REP. O'NEILL: Which 1,500 are we talking about?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: The 1,500 Level Ones that are sitting in my facilities.
REP. O'NEILL: Okay. So these are -- almost 60% are re-offenders?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Correct.
REP. O'NEILL: Okay.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: That's important. We have to really target that population because why are they back? Well, 20% of them are back because of probation violations, but 40% of those are back because of substance abuse charges. So that's good information to work on and then start targeting how we can address those issues and deal with that. And the substance abuse in the community, that may not be an issue that I can control, but it's certainly an issue that maybe we can partner with the community to come up with some solutions.
REP. O'NEILL: Where I was going with this was the halfway houses. Do you have any sense or do you keep track of which ones have greater and lesser success levels in terms of -- and failure being recidivism?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yeah, one of the things that we're doing that is very important for me is the performance measure of those halfway houses. We have contracts. We audit the contracts. What I really want to do and I've already put people on the task, is to really look at the halfway houses and establish some performance measures of success. How many successfully complete the program; how many stay out for a certain period of time; and what's the impact of that, the long term. So I will be looking at that. I think performance measures is an important thing that we need to look at as far as success. We need to measure success. I'm not so sure if we are doing a very good job of measuring success, but we need to measure success. We're pretty good at measuring failure. How do I define and measure success? I need to replicate and study success and hopefully the failure rate will take care of itself.
When we look at the failure, we need to do a much better job of performance measures in measuring success and duplicating and replicating success.
REP. DYSON: Representative Hamm.
REP. HAMM: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Commissioner. Good to see you.
I'm struggling a little bit here. Is the 1,500 Level One inmates that you're talking about a different 1,500 number that are awaiting re-entry into the community or are we talking about 3,000 people?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: No, they're the same.
REP. HAMM: Okay.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yes, Ma'am.
REP. HAMM: That was what I was concerned about. Chairman Dyson actually approached it a little bit, but I wanted you to go into a little more detail. How long do you think it will take you to re-enter 1,500 people? And I understand that you're talking about 75% into halfway houses, which means that we really presently don't have any other community reintegration sanctions.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: At this time.
REP. HAMM: At this time.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I would say that probably a lot of these individuals are going to end up sentence discharged.
REP. HAMM: Okay.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Because their amount of time is such that by the time they get to the Level One, if the time comes and they don't get a halfway house, they may just end up sentence discharged.
REP. HAMM: And with those inmates --
REP. LAWLOR: Could you just explain what end of sentence discharge means?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: It means that they've completed their sentence and you're done.
REP. LAWLOR: No supervision at all?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: No, sir.
REP. LAWLOR: You walk out the door?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Correct.
REP. HAMM: Yeah, that was my next question. And no follow-up and no services --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Not after end of sentence. Once your sentence is over with and you're discharged, that's it. There is no what I call accountability. There's no criminal justice, corrections, parole accountability.
So I think a lot of these individuals could end up basically end of sentence discharge.
REP. HAMM: Do you --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I don't know a number, though. I'm sorry.
REP. HAMM: Do you have a sense of whether or not that 1,500 number is a constant? In other words, are you usually looking at about that number of inmates who are awaiting re-entry into a halfway house or others?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Since I've been Commissioner, Representative Hamm, this has been an issue that I've wanted to look at, the population. I've wanted to analyze it, kind of assess it, see where I'm at. This has been within 100, pretty constant.
REP. HAMM: Okay. So if we can somehow get our arms around --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: That's what I'm trying.
REP. HAMM: -- that 1,500 and look at something besides just halfway houses, although clearly we need more beds, but we ought to be exploring these other alternatives, as well.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: And that's something that I may need some advice and some assistance on how to do that and that's what I think the committee is going to do for me.
I may even be requesting some legislative amendment.
REP. HAMM: And when you say "legislative amendment", are we talking October or are we talking February, Commissioner?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I really want the committee to get together. I have my first meeting October 2nd. I want to give the charge, the so-call charge, I want to start breaking down what the bill -- the bill, the act itself that was passed, is pretty comprehensive in the areas that it wants to be investigated and explored and looked at for recommendations.
The committee needs to give a report in February. Okay, so some of the recommendations would be available for that session. I don't want to move too fast because then you're not getting the comprehensive analysis of what we're trying to do.
REP. HAMM: I think it's important and I know I speak for a number of my colleagues, that it's enormously frustrating as policy-makers to look at a 1,500, which you acknowledge is a pretty constant number of Level One inmates who could be served in the community in a less -- forget the cost side, but certainly in a less confined way and at the same time, we are sending 2,000 - I mean, the numbers are very close because those 1,500 are taking up your space.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: There's a difference in the classification level of the beds.
REP. HAMM: I understand that, but the numbers are still close.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: But they don't translate the same way. A Level Four individual is not a Level One. A Level Four individual, in our system, is considered a high security risk, a high risk individual. That's not the part of the 1,500 at all. There are two different individuals. Level Four maybe more violent offenders and I don't think we -- what I would like to do with the committee is really address the non-violent population and really concentrate on that. The places that I'm overcrowded are Level Four and that's the population I want to concentrate on for Greensville and perhaps some of the other out-of-state placements. There are also the higher costs, the higher need individual for security and risk.
They're very different than the Level Ones, the 1,500 Level Ones.
REP. HAMM: Now, the other thing I just want to make sure that I wrote down and understood properly. In the substance abuse treatment that we currently have in our prisons, you said there were four levels, if I understood it.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yes, there are four treatment levels. We call them Tiers and we have an Addiction Services Unit.
REP. HAMM: And did I hear you correctly that there are two of the level top tier?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: There's one, two, three, four. One is your education.
REP. HAMM: Right.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Two is more of your AANA-type programs. Three is a little bit more involvement, they would be a higher degree. It might be involved in some cognitive behavioral-kind of programs. And four is your therapeutic community which is the most intensive. It's the highest cost. It also, traditionally, has the highest success rate, as well.
REP. HAMM: Well I guess that's what I wrote down, is that the therapeutic best intervention, best chance of success substance abuse program which you've acknowledged with 85% of our inmates needing not necessarily that level, but certainly some substance abuse treatment.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Right. I would say the 85% need a one to four range and when we assess an individual, an offender coming into the system, we look at what we think their substance abuse rating is and then we do everything we can to match that up with the available resources and the programs that we have available.
REP. HAMM: But I wrote down and I want to make sure I'm correct, that you have one at York.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I have a therapeutic community at York and I have a therapeutic community at Manson Youth Institution.
REP. HAMM: So that means, if I'm drawing the correct conclusions, that you have no therapeutic substance abuse treatment for any our adults, males in our State.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Correct. A therapeutic community is a very, very highly structured closed program, very intense and has an after care component attached to it, so the numbers are usually limited.
REP. HAMM: Harder to get in, that kind of thing?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Harder to get in and it's intense, it's intense to get through the program and I think that's why it's successful because it has a good treatment modality attached to it, as well as an after-care program. It's pretty expensive.
REP. HAMM: But it's striking, don't you think, that if we know we have that level of inmate who needs at least a therapeutic intervention, that in our adult population, we don't have any.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: We have those two, those are your highest needs. We do provide one through three to the population. The most intense therapeutic is the therapeutic community and that's at two facilities and the rest of the population at least gets a Tier One and then we try to work with the Two and Three. And as I mentioned to Representative Green, Brown University did do a study and it was a fairly good study on the impact of our addiction services programs on the offender population. I think it would be really helpful if I was able to share that.
REP. HAMM: Well, I will share with you that I'm familiar with the Marilyn Manson Program at York.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Marilyn Baker?
REP. HAMM: Marilyn Baker.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yes, it's an excellent program.
REP. HAMM: An excellent program.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yes.
REP. HAMM: So, we should do more of that.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I'm very proud of it.
REP. HAMM: Marilyn Manson, what I can tell you?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: No, that's okay. I'm very proud of that program.
REP. HAMM: That's all I have, Mr. Chairman.
REP. DYSON: Representative Carter, followed by Representative Gonzalez.
REP. CARTER: Thank you. Now, a person that goes into the correction system whose addicted to drugs, some of them come out still as addicted as when they went in. How do you police either the staff or the correction officers or the family, whoever comes in, because somebody is getting drugs to them?
So, how do you police that?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, certainly -- I'll start -- we do have individuals who come in who are addicted because unlike most states, we're a unified correctional system. So I also manage the jail population and again, in other jurisdictions, we're only one of seven states that do that. And the other 43 states, they do not control the jail population like I do.
REP. CARTER: But how do we do it in Connecticut?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: So when we get an individual that comes in who is -- we do a medical assessment and a mental health assessment. So when they come into our system, we do that assessment and they see medical and a program, I guess is the best thing I can say, is provided to detox. Okay.
The women detox differently than the men based on the possibility of pregnancy. So there's a difference in the two detoxes because of that.
When the male offender detoxes, of course, depending on how long he's going to stay at the jail, there are available programs, substance abuse programs, Tier One, Tier Two, that are available to him to participate in.
Now, that's how we manage that population as they come in. The intent is, of course, to detox them, is to provide that service for detox.
As far as individuals being released from a correctional facility addicted to a substance, I'm not sure what substance that would be. Is that a drug? An illicit -- is that an illicit drug or is that a prescription drug? I'm not there, but I will tell you that we do everything we can, everything, I think, to stop contraband in our correctional facilities. Drugs and paraphernalia, cigarettes, are all considered contraband. We have a whole system of procedures, security procedures that include everything from shake-down, urine analysis, --
REP. CARTER: Shake-down more than prison, though?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I'm sorry?
REP. CARTER: Shake-down more than the prisoners because the prisoners are getting it from somewhere.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I would not -- I would be naïve if I did not say that substances and contraband enter our correctional facilities, but I would also say that I think the staff do a very good job of confiscating it, finding it, disposing it appropriately, documenting it, okay. I don't have any data that tells me how many people get out of our system worse off through an addiction than when they came in. I don't have that, Representative Carter and if you have any information, I'd be more than glad to look into it.
REP. CARTER: Okay, because I'm sure I can find you someone that will talk to you whose been through the system ---
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I would appreciate that.
REP. CARTER: I guess my other question is, in Hartford, you have the Hartford Jail, you have the Hartford Correctional Center, you have the Hartford Detention Center, you have a halfway house for men, you have a halfway house for women, you have a halfway house that has women and children in it, you have alcohol, drugs, and drug centers and you have a mental health center. And now you're looking at 500 more beds to go into the City of Hartford?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, the Hartford Jail, the Hartford Detention Center, and the Hartford Correctional Center are all the same thing.
REP. CARTER: Well, they're all in this city.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, they're all the same facility. That's the jail, that's the Hartford Jail and it's the largest of our three jails.
The reason I look at the CJC and I think the proposal came is what I'm here for today is it designated Hartford as a site for CJC, a community justice center. I think the CJC's are going to work best in the communities where the majority of the individuals come out of and I think that if the individuals -- if the offenders are going to go back into Hartford and return to the Hartford community, which is where they came out of, it would best serve the interest of Hartford and public safety and community safety if we did that in a very deliberate, meaningful, and through a strategy that reduces victimization to the community, reduces the likelihood of repeating criminal activity. So I think it's an advantage. I personally think it's an advantage to have a CJC in the City of Hartford because it gives you a mechanism to reintegrate that individual safely back into the community.
REP. CARTER: What you say is very nice and I appreciate that.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: That's my intent.
REP. CARTER: But right now we have a women's correctional center. We have this halfway house for women. A halfway house -- those people come as far away as Stamford to Hartford in those facilities. So they're not Hartford residents that are in these places. Not all of them.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I'm not going to dispute that, Representative Carter. I will -- when your women's halfway house beds are limited and you have one in Hartford, you're going to put a woman in there as a transition and you're right, she may not be a Hartford resident, but the beauty or the image, I think of the community justice center is that I would want that tailored to the Hartford resident.
REP. CARTER: Okay, one last question. If you have people that are in Virginia and you talked about a support system for people for families and things like that, how does that support system work for a person whose in Virginia and their family is here?
Because it can't be too much of a support system.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, it's not optimal. I'm not going to sit here and try to deny that having an inmate in Virginia is a not a burden to a family who wants to stay personally connected to that inmate. I'm not going to try to hide that fact.
We do a bus trip. I understand that that's -- that can be a pretty laborious trip because it's going to take you all day to get down there. We do provide that service, a bus trip. I'm looking at doing a video conference or video visitation so you would still be able to communicate. Of course, there's the telephone, there's mail correspondence.
When we look at an individual going out-of-state, I want to look at an individual that is not within at least six to nine months of possibility of discharge because I want them back in the State to begin that whole re-entry process of making the good connections to reinforce successful community integration. So, I will tell you and I won't deny that there may be an issue. I will also tell you that half of the inmates in Virginia have formally requested to stay there. They like being in Virginia. There must be something about Virginia that is --
REP. CARTER: It sure is. A harden criminal doesn't want to stay.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: So we do have -- about half of them have written us letters requesting to stay down there and not come back.
REP. CARTER: Okay, thank you.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Representative Gonzalez.
REP. GONZALEZ: Commissioner, my sympathies to you. I think you're in a very hot seat, huh? But that comes with the job.
My question is, if you send inmates to Virginia, let's say for a year, after they serve the sentence for a year, what's the process with that inmate if the Department will bring them back or they are on their own when they get out?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, I'm not holding to a year in Virginia. I just visited Greensville the last week of August and I went and I went through the blocks. I went through the housing units that we have our inmates and I talked to the inmates and I talked to the staff who were supervising the inmates. I met with the administration. I met with the director of the Virginia Department of Correction. So I had an opportunity to see and experience the Greensville facility and a couple of the inmates had come up to me and in my conversations, I go right into the cell block. I was a Warden for seven years. I've been in corrections 27 years. I want to talk to people.
And I was talking to some of the inmates and a few of them said it's time for me to come home. And I said, I'm sorry, but with the situation that I have, you may be down here longer. So I said I'm not going to be able to make a promise that after a year you're going to be able to come back. It's really going to be based on how I assess the needs of the agency and where I can have individuals housed to meet the needs of the agency.
So, I'm not going to -- I told them this, so I certainly wouldn't tell you anything different. That year may not be the agreement, so to say.
Now, again, I don't want an individual discharging out of Virginia. That's the last thing I want. I want an individual to come back at least six to nine months ahead of time so that we can do the re-entry strategy.
REP. GONZALEZ: Okay, thank you.
REP. DYSON: Senator Handley.
SEN. HANDLEY: Thank you. Hi.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Hi.
SEN. HANDLEY: I remain concerned about the issues of people leaving the State that have been raised here and I think in the long run we're not doing those folks who are going and their families and the community they're coming back to a whole lot of favor by keeping them separated for long stretches of time.
But I'll tell you the thing that bothers me also in your testimony is the idea that there's going to be a community justice center in Niantic. I'm troubled that in Connecticut we have just one place for women who are convicted -- adult women who are convicted of serious crimes and a place that's not easy for a lot of folks to get to or for families, particularly women who have young children to stay connected with.
And I'm troubled very much at the idea that what might have been a community-based center seems going to also be in Niantic.
Do you have any thoughts about in a small state with the relatively small female population who are sent to jail, it seems to me we should be able to do better.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: There were -- I don't really disagree with what you're saying. I would prefer that the connectivity to the services be close to the community that she's going to be at. It really is an issue of the fact that the women come from all over the State and for me to replicate that in each of the areas would be too costly.
The other area is that I already had the building. I had the facility. And that is huge. It's very difficult and I went through this process with the former Commissioner, it's very difficult to place halfway houses and very difficult to place facilities. And so one of the things is the building was there. We renovated it. We put an RFP out to contract out the program itself. It's not going to be run by DOC. It's going to be run by a contractor provider and one of the things that we asked them to really evaluate and assess is how are they going to make those connections to where she's going back to? And perhaps -- we do have some halfway house community programs and perhaps the CJC is a good place to get her ready to go to one of those or to await one of those beds when that becomes available because those beds are also limited.
So, there is an issue with where York is situated and we have been terrific neighbors in that community and it would be costly, probably very difficult, if not near impossible for me to replicate this around the areas. Where the men, there are so many men in the system. There are 1,400 women and the rest of the 19,000 plus are men. And they predominately -- you can see the major areas that they come from and it's easier, by virtue of numbers and cost efficiency and effectiveness and traditionally the men are more violent than the women in their criminal history, as well.
So, yes, I --
SEN. HANDLEY: A probable reason for them to go to Niantic and have the women go back to the cities.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: The other thing is with Niantic is that that community is very used to the women offenders. And they've embraced us and we've been very, very good neighbors and we've worked very well with them.
So, for a lot of reasons and plus this is the pilot. So this gives us an opportunity to not have to worry about other issues that might face us as we proceed with the CJC model. So, it was really a number of issues that made that very attractive.
We received federal funding for that program, by the way, which I think is another important thing to understand is that the dollars were available now and I needed to capitalized on that, as well and that's why there's a program. We do have some services to get people to get to Niantic to visit. So there are some -- there were some logistical issues, but you're right, Niantic is far away from the cities.
SEN. HANDLEY: It's not a good situation, I think.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: But it's a good facility, Senator.
SEN. HANDLEY: Oh, I understand, I understand that, but it's not the best solution that we should be working for and I'm hoping that what we're doing today is going to move us in the direction of better solutions. Thanks.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Representative Lawlor.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon, Commissioner.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Hello, Representative Lawlor.
REP. LAWLOR: I just had a couple of sort of follow-up and technical questions based on some of your earlier testimony, just to clarify.
For one, you mentioned a few moments ago about therapeutic communities and I just -- in absolute numbers, just out of curiosity, what's the size like at York, the women's prison, the MYI, the one for youthful offenders?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: It's fairly small. The numbers are small. I think they average from 40 to 60.
REP. LAWLOR: In each place?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yeah.
REP. LAWLOR: And --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: It's a very intensive program. And you want to make sure that you have the right people in it to go through it because it's long. So you don't have a high turnover rate.
REP. LAWLOR: Earlier on you had testified about it's not just beds, but it's beds based on the --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: The classification levels.
REP. LAWLOR: -- classification and you said that your urgent need is for the higher security beds, the Level Four beds and my understanding is everybody whose pretrial is classified as Level Four. Is that correct?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: And about out of the 19,500 or so total population, what's the percentage that's pretrial at the moment?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Twenty percent.
REP. LAWLOR: So that's a pretty big number who are all Level Four regardless if they're in there for shoplifting or anything, they're Level Four until convicted, right?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: They're placed in the Level Four for a number of reasons. Number one, because it's closed. They're in that -- yes, basically yes. We predominantly keep pretrial in a Level Four facility. There are exceptions where we may have pretrial in less than a Level Four, but the three city jails as well as Corrigan and York, which are major facilities for pretrial, are all considered Level Four facilities.
REP. LAWLOR: So earlier when we've been talking about the total number, let's say, of probation violators who are taking up bed space, I think you said the number is around 2,500 system-wide, is that right, something like that?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: And does that include the pretrial population accused of violation of probation or is that simply the sentence defenders?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I believe that's the sentenced.
REP. LAWLOR: So there's another big sort of cohort Level Four offenders who are pretrial. Many of those, charged with drug possession, drug sale, violation of probation and they're all Level Four regardless of what they're in there for, shoplifting or trespass or anything else like that, just because they're pretrial. Is that more or less --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Do you know what? I have to double check and see if the number that I gave you for the -- 2,500 is all sentenced or all -- has a sentence. If it's okay with you, I'd like to clarify that myself.
REP. LAWLOR: My recollection is it is about 2,500 and growing.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: It is 2,500 with that offense.
REP. LAWLOR: Right.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: The issue is what I need to tell you definitively is how much of that 2,500 has a controlling sentence or are they pretrial.
REP. LAWLOR: Well, the reason I raise this --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I would guess that they're sentenced.
REP. LAWLOR: The reason I raise this is because I think you have a need for Level Four beds --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: But I have McDougal, I have Cheshire, I have other Level Four facilities besides the jails that are significant and I do have some overcrowding in some of the other facilities, as well.
REP. LAWLOR: I understand. I just want to make the point, I think that you have a need for Level Four beds, but a lot of those Level Four beds are in the three jails, right? Being taken up, in many cases, by people who are in on very minor charges, maybe just in for a week or two and that is just another dimension we haven't discussed here today is that there is a need to find other ways to deal -- we've been talking more about the sentence population, but there's this whole pretrial problem and those numbers have been growing in recent years, as well, and many of those folks are the under the bridge, living in a box kind of category, mentally ill, serious drug and alcohol and dependency program --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Just about everybody, you're right, parole violators, probation violators. They all come into mostly through the jails. You're right, it's an extremely diverse population of needs as well as levels of security.
REP. LAWLOR: And as I understand it and correct me if I'm wrong, many of the options available, the alternatives for those people have fallen by the way side in the recent budget rescissions, as well. I don't think that's so much your bailey wick as it is in judicial, but the alternative incarceration programs that -- the Jail Re-Interview Program, I think you're familiar with that where people who haven't been able to post bond are in on minor charges. The process by which people went into the jails and interviewed those folks again to see if there was maybe some other way to supervise them other than taking up a Level Four jail bed, that whole program has been discontinued because of the recent budget cuts and I think that's just something we need to understand. That's a Level Four problem, as well, not just people who --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: That's a jail problem.
REP. LAWLOR: -- who have earned their way into a Level Four bed, but also people who are just pretrial and end up in Level Four because they're pretrial.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: You're right, those are Level Four beds that they would take up.
REP. LAWLOR: And you were also being asked earlier on the relative cost of a halfway house bed versus a cell bed. I think you were making distinctions and appropriately so, I think, between -- well, if it's a halfway house for persons with mental illness, it's a lot more expensive than others, and then you were being asked to compare that to the average cost of a bed in a particular correctional facility. But wouldn't it be fair to say that people in a correctional facility who also have a mental illness by themselves are much more expensive, on average that whole facility is one thing, but to provide the services in a facility to a person with mental illness is more than the average cost for your typical inmate, right?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Oh, I would agree.
REP. LAWLOR: So either way you're paying extra money whether they're in a halfway house bed, mental health services, or in a jail bed for mental health services?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: But they're aggregated in the population where a bed, you purchase a bed in a facility that has mental health inmates as well as general population inmates. There maybe a bump up, but it may not be the one for one. It may not be this particular mental health inmate cost in dollars and this halfway house bed does cost dollars. So there maybe a little bit of a distinction there that you have to kind of look at.
One of the things that I'm looking at is -- I really think we need -- and I request -- I've been working with the University of Connecticut's Managed Health Care Unit and I think we really need to look at a strategic plan for how we manage mental health and reduce the cost, the cost of those individuals perhaps in the jails, the cost of those individuals in other parts of the system and really sort of consolidate it and do a really good mental health program for these individuals. And I'm looking at the consolidation of all of that into a facility so that we can really concentrate our resources and really do something efficient and good with these individuals.
So, that may take some of those people that are in the jails, the mental health, the high mental health needs in the jails and some of the other places and put them in a "treatment facility" and concentrate. I think where you're going is I probably -- I will agree, is that maybe a higher cost facility average than a regular Level Four facility. That might be a Level Four facility, but that may cost us more by virtue of the services and the staffing needs that we're going to provide there as opposed to a Level Four McDougal or Cheshire. So you're right, we would probably spend more money on those individuals.
REP. LAWLOR: And just more evidence of this whole thing is a lot more complicated than it appears on its face because different inmates have different issues and it's really hard to compare apples and apples in terms of bed costs.
Now, in talking to a lot of correction officers and others in the system, they tell me that there actually has been a recent increased number of mentally ill persons ending up in prisons and jails and that appears to be a national phenomenon. I mean, is that your sense of the numbers going up?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: There's a couple of things that I think I look at is our numbers are going up because our population has gone up and traditionally it's been averaging 12 to 15 percent of your population has what we would consider significant mental health needs and they're in need of an intervention.
So the rate has not been a tremendous -- the numbers have gone up because so has our population. The rate itself has been sort of constant. So we do have more number offenders, number-wise, but the rate overall is pretty consistent. It's been pretty consistent when I've looked at that. So, I don't know if that -- yes, we have more inmates who have mental health issues because we have more inmates period.
REP. LAWLOR: And aren't you considering changing Garner which is one of the maximum security prisons into one big mental health facility?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I'm looking at concentrating services at that facility to do -- I think it's a good facility. It's designed well. The staff are very good and I'm working with the University of Connecticut Managed Health Care to look at the possibility of doing that. I really want to concentrate the services where the needs are and I don't want my needs to be spread out over 18 facilities. So, I am looking at that, yes.
REP. LAWLOR: And I just wanted to lastly raise the topic that hasn't been discussed in any detail yet and that's the whole issue of parole. And in the recent budget document that was enacted in August, I guess it was --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: The implementer bill?
REP. LAWLOR: Correct. The whole -- the Board of Parole, which had been a stand alone agency has now been, in effect, merged into the Department of Correction and now in addition to all of your problems, you've got this one and in addition, you've got the Board of Pardons, in essence, under your jurisdiction, as well, although I guess it's a little bit autonomous, as I understand it.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: The way its set up and the way I'm looking at it, Representative Lawlor, is the Board of Pardons, we always did their administrative support anyway. That's no change. I have no influence or no -- I shouldn't say influence, but I have no authority to control their decisions.
The Board of Parole is merging in with all of their staff. The Board of Parole itself, the Board itself, still has the discretionary authority for release decisions, that's not mine. The field supervision piece, which is fairly similar to my transitional supervision piece, I would like to be able to -- and I've got some subcommittees working and transition committees working on that. I would like to get the best practices out of both and make it much more cohesive, much more efficient and effective, both of those.
What I like about this whole merger is from the time the individual comes into the jail to the end of sentence, there's a system or an agency, i.e. me, that has influence on how that individual is managed, the care, custody, and control through the whole process. And that way I'm not competing for interest. I'm not competing for dollars. I'm not competing for bed space. I'm trying to look at it through a systemic overview and a systemic approach to that.
REP. LAWLOR: And the reason I ask is because there's been some concerns about -- the implementer bill had some pretty skimpy language on how this was all supposed to happen and I know, at least it's been considered that you need some more clarity to figure out how exactly to do this, but one of the proposals in the bill today is to switch from a system where you have these part-time Parole Board members, in effect, the people actually vote on whether or not -- the Parole people to a full-time system where the members of the Board of Parole -- there would be fewer, but that would be their full-time job, which implies training and professionalism and expertise and experience over time.
And I was wondering, do you have an opinion on that particular proposal because I guess most states have the full-time Parole Board thing. Do you --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, I would reserve that judgment on the person who appoints those members and that's not me.
REP. LAWLOR: Oh, I see.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: So -
REP. LAWLOR: It's the Governor, I forgot.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: So it would be best that I not address that because that's really his prerogative and his decision.
REP. LAWLOR: I raise it because one --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: What I would like to do, Representative Lawlor, is whatever the Parole Board membership is, and it currently is the chairman, the vice-chairs and the twelve part-timers is one of the areas I want to look as far as the transition plan is the training aspect and also I would like to look at how the panels are made up. I'm not in a position to oversee their discretionary authority. That is their authority and I think that's where it belongs. It doesn't belong with the Commissioner of Correction for the authority to grant ---
(inaudible-tape switched from side 3A to side 3B - some dialogue and testimony not recorded)
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: -- that partnership that we can get. I like the continuity of care, control and custody of the offender.
So, that's a roundabout way of addressing the issue that I don't select the Parole Board members, so it wouldn't be appropriate for me to say anything. I'm still trying to learn the Parole Board system myself. I've not had a lot of contact with the Board of Parole because that was not part of the Department of Correction. And so now I'm learning a whole new agency's function, sub-agency's functions myself.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Thank you, Representative Dyson, thank you very much.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much, Commissioner and it's good to have you here with us and now let me call Mayor Perez here. Mayor Perez, will you come on here and then we will go to Don -- oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Representative Martinez.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I wasn't fast enough. I wasn't fast enough, was I? Yes, Ma'am.
REP. MARTINEZ: Thank you. I have to congratulate you, you have done a fantastic job here today.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: You are very kind.
REP. MARTINEZ: So we're very proud of you.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Thank you.
REP. MARTINEZ: I know you were saying that they're finding places, they're going to put these inmates in the communities. Whose in charge of finding the locations for these people to go back into the different places in the communities?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Well, before we release an offender on transitional supervision or even parole supervision, a discharge plan is developed and that really works with the offender to try to establish a residence in the community. And one of the issues that we've been challenged with is a lot of the individuals do not have a residence. They have no place to go and that's one of the reasons where halfway houses and transitional living units come into play as far as being very fruitful and positive.
So, the placement of the individual, where they go and into what community, is a decision that's made by the discretionary releasing authority, whether it be me for transitional supervision or the Parole Board or whoever has that release authority.
So, there are halfway houses all over the State. I mean, in many jurisdictions there are halfway houses.
REP. MARTINEZ: Are you trying to have new ones, to have new beds or are you going to look at what they have already in the community?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I would like to look at both. I did do an RFI, a request for information back in the spring because I really wanted to know what was out there and the responses I got was almost -- under 300 beds were out there that they were either beds that could come on line in the future or they were beds that they had closed down for budgetary reasons and so forth, but I just needed to get a picture of what was out there in the community and what was available.
REP. MARTINEZ: Thank you.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: And just take a look at what services were there. I have a budget. My job is to live as the Commissioner and as a state administrator, my job is to live within the appropriations that you give me and I need to be as effective and as efficient and prudent with the taxpayers' money as I possibly can. So, I look at that.
We did combine community residential programs and services, halfway houses, as well as programs available. We did consolidate that money. I also have the money that the Parole Board originally had for halfway houses and I'll be looking at -- with the Alternatives to Incarceration Committee members, looking at some opportunities to see if we can fund some more of those halfway house beds and what other alternatives do I have.
REP. MARTINEZ: I would like to ask you for a favor and I'm not going to repeat myself. I think Representative Carter has the same situation in Hartford that we have in Bridgeport. Many of a lot of things, especially in our poor communities, because Bridgeport has the affluent community and also the other side of Bridgeport, which is the poor communities and most of these houses have been placed in our poor communities.
We have an incarceration place on the east side of Bridgeport. The beds are there and the offices are in Norwalk. That's not acceptable. So I'm going to ask you to please -- it's not going to --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I want to know that. I would like to know which program you're talking about.
REP. MARTINEZ: First of all, we should share, okay, the burden of bringing these people that perhaps deserve to come back if we choose to do that, but we also have to look into our communities and be fair with our communities. And I will talk to you more about that, but I really would like for you to be very minded about that. If we have the beds in Bridgeport, have the offices and the personnel that come with this because I believe that the offices pay taxes for the City, is that correct?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: When you say "offices", --
REP. MARTINEZ: If you have --
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: Yes, there are taxes paid.
REP. MARTINEZ: Okay. So if we have one, why not have the other one?
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I'll take a look at that for you, I'll be glad to.
REP. MARTINEZ: Okay, thank you.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: You're welcome.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much, Commissioner. Let's see how quickly you can go.
CMSR. THERESA C. LANTZ: I'm running, sir. I'm running.
REP. DYSON: Mayor Perez, followed by and I want to get a couple of people in before I get to go to Judge Pellegrino. Dawn Kardulis, Rudy Thomas, and Olga Vazquez and I assume you want to come up together. Go right ahead, Mr. Mayor.
MAYOR EDDIE PEREZ: Senator Harp, Representatives Dyson and Lawlor, members of the Appropriations and Judiciary Committees, good afternoon. Special greetings to the Hartford delegation members present, Representatives Green, Carter, and Gonzalez.
I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you about a subject that is of great importance to me and my city.
It should also be of great importance to each and every one of us in the State.
My testimony this afternoon is in support of the working draft, LCO 8132, which not only seeks to address overcrowding in our prisons, but also gives those who are released from prison a better chance of staying out.
Reducing recidivism is an effective way of reducing overcrowding, but it also, as the Commissioner pointed out, a good way to address public safety and many of the quality of life issues that effect most urban neighborhoods.
Like most mayors of large urban communities, I have been confronted with many challenges. Balancing budgets in the face of a national fiscal crisis, providing quality services to residents with a shrinking city staff, identifying alternatives for our young people amidst of cuts in educational and recreational programs, and less job opportunities in our urban centers.
However, the biggest challenge has been dealing with those families who have lost brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, and mothers and daughters. Too many people have turned to drugs, violence, and crime as a way of life in our city neighborhoods.
As a result, many of these men and women end up in prison again and again.
While there are no excuses for committing crime, it's obvious that somewhere along the line we have failed those former inmates who are re-entering our communities just to return back to prison. We fail our communities and our former inmates if we don't provide them with the proper tools to live successfully outside.
A community must be ready for an individual who has served his or her time to re-enter and that individual needs to be ready to live and become a productive citizen in our community.
Communities are not effectively reaching these folks with the supportive programs and services that are needed.
For whatever reason, the gap is costing us dearly. According to the Connecticut Department of Correction, the State spent just over $73 a day for each inmate last year. With nearly 20,000 men and women incarcerated in the State, that's over $1.4 million daily. Add to that, the growing needs for prison space and the lack of space that's available and you have the making of a serious crisis.
You've heard what's worked in other cities around the country and you've heard what's being done throughout our State here. In July, 2002, my office collaborated with several state departments and community-based organizations in competing for federal funding to assist our re-entering residents. The Hartford Reach In Project sought to serve high risk offenders before and after their release from prison and aimed to reduce their chances to going back by having community support programs in place.
The initiative partnered my office with the Hartford Police Department, the Hartford Health and Human Services Department, the State Department of Correction, the State Department of Probation, the State Department of Parole, and the Capitol Regional Workforce Development Board, as well as the Hartford schools and various nonprofit providers, but most importantly, members of the Hartford business community.
It also had law enforcement partners who agreed to provide the infrastructure necessary to guarantee public safety.
The supportive network of wrap around services would have provided ex-offenders a better chance to becoming productive citizens in our city. The bad news is that the grant didn't get funded. The good news is that all of the partners remain committed to the ideals of the initiative and ready to join the State in similar efforts.
Our efforts in this regard continue with the Connecticut Puerto Rican Forum and other groups in our city that are spearheading parts of the initiative.
The program that the Forum is trying to get off the ground seeks to set up a pilot program to work with individuals prior to their re-entry from prison and provides a support and transitional service in such basic areas as basic human needs, job training and placement, housing, and substance abuse. (inaudible) for this program will also be developed for individuals prior to release with the proper community support programs identified and most importantly, already brokered.
(inaudible) will be testifying before you today and give you some details of the program.
I would be more than happy to provide you with more details about other city initiatives and community-based initiatives that are effective in working on these programs, but need your support.
We all need a sense of community. Many times offenders turn back to crime because this is where they find that sense of community. One way to reduce overcrowding is to support individuals so that they could achieve successful re-entry into the community and not to the system.
I challenge us to create a new sense of community for them, one that provides success rather than failure, one that welcomes and supports them in the community at large and one that gives those who want an opportunity to succeed, a chance to re-enter positively into our society.
There are no easy answers and there are no easy solutions.
It would be irresponsible, we, as the leaders of our city, not to understand that this population is a population that, whether I arrest them and hand them over to you and you release them back over to me, if we're not working in partnership and we don't put the right kind of support programs, we spend an awful lot of money making a lot of other folks rich and mostly residents or our urban communities very (inaudible) in their daily lives. Whether you're a homeowner or a policeman in Hartford, you know that the amount of folks who come out of our prisons and create havoc in our community, only to go back to prison, is a problem that's long overdue for us to take on. While this has been only a year and 19 months I've been in office, for the last year I've been working with a community building task force because what we need to do is build opportunities for individuals and don't condemn them because they've made mistakes and usually early on in their career.
This is the silly season in Hartford. We're always campaigning and if I had a job for every young man that came up to me who said that his prison record is keeping him from totally re-entering into society, I would be Governor tomorrow.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Are there any comments or questions? Well, Senator Harp and then Representative Green.
SEN. HARP: First of all, I just want to thank you for waiting and giving us your testimony and I want to also commend you for your leadership and vision of seeing the municipality's role in creating partnerships across the continuum, if you want to call it that, and that, in fact, in other states, counties are doing that. Since we don't have counties here in Connecticut, we do have municipalities, but you're one of the few who understands the relationship between the municipality and the State in addressing this issue.
And so, my hat's off to you and I have a question, actually, too. I was wondering if you can sort of project what the impact of the changes that we've made, particularly in cash benefits for SAGA, have in terms of -- or even talk to us about the importance of General Assistance in re-entry for people who come back to your community of Hartford.
MAYOR EDDIE PEREZ: Well, I don't think there's a secret that any time these critical support programs are cut that our urban centers are impacted. That means that people have less to survive on. So they turn to crime and other things and we've predicted that our job is going to get harder and harder for the next couple of years because we won't see the impact for the first six months. We'll see the crime statistics effect us a year from now as a result of the cuts that are made by the State and those support programs that are so critical to this population.
SEN. HARP: Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Representative Green.
REP. GREEN: Thank you. It's a pleasure to see you, Mr. Mayor and I have a few questions, but I think I just want to preface my statements by saying that I know of the efforts that you're making in the City. However, I think in the respect that we've always had for each other, some dialogue to make things better and to try to find some solutions has always been something we've been able to grow from.
So, a couple of these questions may seem like they're very directed at you or the City, however, I don't want to imply that because I know that it's a very tough job and that we're doing a lot of positive things in the City and I want to emphasize that because sometimes the media and other avenues don't really portray some of the positive things that your administration and the people of the City of Hartford have done.
However, I am concerned, based on some earlier testimony and being a resident of the City, I'm very concerned because, like you, I hear sometimes the negative part. I hear when things don't go right. I hear when people have complaints and are concerned because of some of the public safety issues.
A few questions just to try to see if the issue of prison overcrowding and the issues in the cities, particularly Hartford, if we can try to figure out what impact that's having, negative or positive, on residents from cities going to jail.
You talked about working with the State and other agencies and I just guess I want to try to figure out, are you aware if the Department of Correction shares with you or anybody in the City or any other cities, how many residents from the City maybe incarcerated? How many residents from the City maybe returning at a particular month that have a last known address, say, in the City? So is there some communications in terms of being aware of what exactly is the impact of Corrections and incarceration to the residents of the City of Hartford?
MAYOR EDDIE PEREZ: The issue is no, the City hasn't had the capacity built in to make those kinds of inquiries. When we started working on this federal grant, it was surprising to me, this was about a year ago when we decided to go after the grant and the notion of the grant was that we needed to be ready to accept individuals when they come back and when we began researching what was being -- what the existing systems are, it was disturbing to me how little collaboration and communication we have and the little bit of resources that gets put into, from the City side and from the State side, about what to do when individuals are coming back. Part of this is from fear of privacy and other issues, but I think that we've been, at the local level, we should have been on top of that a long time ago because it's one of the issues that I saw early on that's effecting us and we don't know the impact, as the Senator mentioned. If we knew the impact, we could be making a lot more noise or doing something about it.
REP. GREEN: I agree because I think that the whole idea, if we're trying to track and figure out what are we doing that changes lifestyles, if you're not really aware of how many people are coming back in and what impacts, programs or other things that happen.
Now, the Senator actually mentioned, and I agree with her, that we appreciate the efforts that the City wants to make, but I guess I want to tie in regional efforts and especially this community justice center. You might have heard and I think you were here when Representative Carter expressed some concern as to why the community justice center will be placed in Hartford and even though I think it's -- I do believe in the philosophy of the center and believe that it needs to probably be in or near cities, if that's where the individual will be returning to, however, we realize that a number of individuals that are being released from Corrections are not from Hartford and that center will probably not just have individuals from Hartford.
If I were to try to figure out what are the objectives of the center, if it's about re-entering the individual in the community, if it's about possibly some family reconnection, some employment opportunities, some substance abuse services, treatment services, and the idea is that you're going to have these folks close to a community that provides that and provides their family to get involved, what's your thoughts on whether or not a center like that has to be in Hartford or possibly in a surrounding community of Hartford and possibly in a community that may actually have somewhat more positive statistics around employment rates, housing opportunities, transportation needs, and stuff like that. What are your thoughts on that?
MAYOR EDDIE PEREZ: Well, first of all, I agree with Representative Carter that Hartford and other similar urban centers share an undue burden when we locate these facilities and there is no compensation for it other than the facilities are in our communities.
I would say that my worry here is not so much where the center is located, it's what the center does. Early in my administration I know that if I don't get engaged with how the State releases people into my community, we will be the worse for it and I'm looking at this as an opportunity, whether the center is located in Hartford or somewhere within traveling distance of Hartford, I'm going to have to follow the individuals who are going to return to my neighborhoods and that's my interest. And not only follow the individual, I hope that this program will provide family support programs. It's not only about the individual that's incarcerated and returning to the community. Sometimes -- my goal -- I have a community building task force that has targeted a couple of areas that we could pilot up in (inaudible) that specifically where we would address programs, not only with the individual, but making sure that the family is ready. There's always adjustment issues. It's not just the individual having a place to stay, it's whether that place has changed dramatically so it doesn't increase his chance or her chance of going back.
So, I see it as an opportunity for Hartford to get its act together on how to build community support programs for individuals. I guess if I spend a lot of time trying to find some other community to accept the facility and then not enough time in making sure that the program -- is Hartford focused. As the Commissioner said, I suspect that about -- somewhere about 50% of the individuals that are being released from the Hartford facilities are Hartford residents. That's the last information I had.
So, I guess I would say that I agree, that if somebody else would accept the facility, it wouldn't bother me. What really is of interest to me is for those folks who are going to end up with a zip code in my city, I want to know that they're coming and I want to know that we will work with them six months to a year prior to them being released and that we've connected back to a support system, either in their homes or in the community that they're coming to.
And I think we owe that to the community that they're going to be living in and to the families.
REP. GREEN: Just let me ask you. Do you believe that an effort like that will actually impact recidivism?
MAYOR EDDIE PEREZ: If I'm involved, yes.
REP. GREEN: If you're not involved, it won't?
MAYOR EDDIE PEREZ: I can't guarantee it. I can't guarantee it.
REP. GREEN: Let me just ask -- I have a number of questions, but I'm only going to ask one more.
In terms of the efforts to reduce prison overcrowding, I know particularly in the City, we have a strong effort to increase the police department and bring in the State Police. And it appears that when you have initiatives like that, you see the arrest rate go up. So you actually contribute to putting more people in prison with these strong put more cops on the street efforts and I'm just wondering, do you believe that we should have other kinds of efforts besides just putting more cops on the streets because, again, that leads to an arrest record, an increase in the arrests, an increase in the prison population with very little alternatives for those individuals.
MAYOR EDDIE PEREZ: Mr. Green, I would -- Representative Green, I'm sorry. I would like to open more recreation programs, more job training programs, but if I had half the money that I needed to deal with the after school programs that I want to provide and the job training programs that I want to provide and the services that these individuals who are coming out of prison, we wouldn't need more cops. And I don't believe we need more cops. I think in Hartford -- 420 is the amount of cops. I said that before and before I -- to put a class of 20 cops on the street in Hartford means I have to close one school. It's $1.5 million of operational dollars that goes somewhere else. So you don't get an argument with me where we should be spending the money. We should be spending the money on prevention.
REP. GREEN: Okay. I guess I made a mistake, I did have one more quick question. I read an article and I guess it confused me and I'm just wondering, how do we help ex-offenders not return to criminal activity? I read a story about a young man who went through the job funnels course and he was an iron builder or I guess --
MAYOR EDDIE PEREZ: An ironworker.
REP. GREEN: And then we have the Job Corps going up and there was a big story about here's a person who went through one of our job training programs who had had a previous record. He seemed to me to be making the efforts to change his life and here was an opportunity for employment, real employment, a real opportunity and being a partner with the Job Corps in the City, how did we miss the opportunity to actually show that individuals like this who want to turn their lives around, we actually can put them to work when we say that employment might be a good deterrent to recidivism?
MAYOR EDDIE PEREZ: Let me say something about the -- one of the reasons I support Project Labor is because they do that, they allow for those ironworkers who are being trained to have continual work and I've been a proponent of Project Labor agreements prior to becoming Mayor and I continue to do that and all the opportunities.
The answer to that is that that's a federally based contract. The contract was determined way before I became Mayor and nobody in the City of Hartford, shame on us, didn't put the residency requirements and the Project Labor agreement requirements into that contract before the contractor was selected. So when I arrived, the deal was done and Hartford lost out.
REP. GREEN: Thank you.
SEN. HARP: Thank you very much. Are there further questions? If not, thank you very much. Thank you for your patience.
Now here's what we're going to do. We're going to call a panel from Create Change, Dawn Kardulis, Rudy Thomas, Maureen Price, and Olga Vazquez and then after they come forward, Judge Pellegrino will come before us. So if everybody could come up from Create Change. You can start while they're coming forward.
DAWN KARDULIS: Okay. Good afternoon. I've been here since 3:00 o'clock, a.m., so I'm a little out of it and make sure I got first and I was with a crowd of other folks from Create Change.
I'm Dawn Kardulis. I'm a Hartford resident. I live in the Blue Hills area and most importantly, I am a member of Create Change and Create Change has made a commitment to reflect the community on the issue of prison overcrowding, as well as on the issue of recovering.
We members are formerly incarcerated people, people in recovery, family members, neighbors, friends, and those concerned and bend towards justice and healing for this community.
This group has taken the issue of reintegration on in an amazing way. We see that the problems of those people in prison and prison systems and addiction agencies are there because of social, environmental, and economic shortcomings. We realize that the void of simple community input has been the undoing of many well intentioned programs and systems.
We wish to be accountable, we at Create Change and we wish to do that by being the voice and we want to be able to -- we wish to voice our concerns, act on them, and potential build inroads that will disassemble the revolving door from prison to recovery services to home only to start over again at prison.
We, at Create Change, align ourselves with the mission create change. We are called to create any change that requires -- excuse me, we are called to create any change required to change our community, to change a lot. Thank you.
SEN. HARP: Thank you. Are there -- do you two want to speak? Just tell us who you are and tell us what you would like to say about the legislation we have before us today.
OLGA VAZQUEZ: My name is Olga. I'm 22. I have a little baby. I came to share this experience.
It's a long story, but I'll make it short. Two years ago, I was in prison and violation of probation. It was an old violation because my probation officer then violated me, but the State picked up and I ended up doing 18 months, which I did two because the time I was in jail I was coming back and forth to the court. The time didn't count. So I basically did two for them. So when I came out, on the last day before I left or the day before, that whole week I was -- I didn't know what to do, do you know what I'm saying? I'm about to face the street and like I said, they ain't go to my mother, my father, uncles, sisters, cousins, aunts. You know what I'm saying, somebody who (inaudible) six o'clock in the morning (inaudible). I just got a whole world to face, which on the last day I was going to talk -- try to get hold of counselors. There was nothing they could do for me until the last minute. (inaudible) on the waiting list. We got the doors open for you, they're come get you at six o'clock in the morning and I can't get an i.d., so I can't do nothing about it. So I asked them if they could do me a favor and give me an i.d. when I get out of there. It was an issue about that in the morning before I leave and I guess the Warden from there had to sign a paper saying that I could have an i.d.
So, they ended up giving it to me so I could move on. So when I ended up in the street, she picked me up early in the morning, she took me to breakfast, dropped me off at the Y. Then after that, I ran to the State and got me food stamps and medical that I could.
My next plan was get me a job to survive, keep it going. Still had probation, so I still got to deal with them too. So, I tried getting me a job, I couldn't to make three or four months. I met this lady at the Y. She was the manager. She said, I know you, I know you're young enough and I know you're trying to change and I'm going to (inaudible).
So when she brought me in there it was a lot of things I had to deal with, the job, especially people who never been in jail and got other ideas by looking at me, is she going to steal something? Is she going to do this or that, you know? They started (inaudible) so they got to move on, you know. I took another appointment and she took me to another Wendy's and it was the same situation there. I ended up getting pregnant. After I got pregnant, I got really sick and tired. I started working. Then after that, I just kept trying to go for my life trying to get out of the Y as much as I could. That's the reason I got pregnant in two months. He went to jail for something he didn't do. I know you've heard that before, because a lot of people I'm in jail for something I didn't do, but this is serious because he didn't do it and they had no proof. Just because he was on parole, and he thinks he was the person he was, he was in jail already. So he violated already just because he was in jail.
They nollied his case. He went out. He came out when I was like -- the baby was a month. So what I'm trying to tell you is that he was my family. I don't have nobody else. And I had nobody else to run to, but the (inaudible) at that time I didn't know what to do. You know what I'm saying? (inaudible) still keep doing good or still being bad because you're still going to get in trouble being good or bad.
So I really was confused like what should I do? Do you know what I'm saying? Should I end my life right here or what? So I kept being strong and I kept getting the help that maybe other people think (inaudible) are not right or why are you going to them. I tried to get more (inaudible) from somebody else that they could give me a hand. Not a friend, they live on the street. (inaudible) mess up my head.
So when he came out of jail, that was another issue. Came out of jail, I gave birth to my baby. I had nowhere to go with my baby because the Y don't accept no kids. I (inaudible) where a lot of providers. What the providers did is they tried to get me an apartment, but they couldn't. I was seven months looking for an apartment and they couldn't just because of my criminal records. (inaudible) $25, $50 to hold the apartment. It was gone. Everything was gone just because the provider had a friend who owned the apartment. She was like, I'm going to do the favor just because it's you. She did me the favor. She came the day after like the angel, the day after I was supposed to come out of the hospital. She said here are the keys and here you go. You know.
And after that, now we're together, but we still can't live as a family and that's not fair because he's on parole, I'm on probation. He's not allowed to live with me and I'm not allowed to live with him just because of our criminal record.
I'm trying to understand and I'm trying to see and I'm trying to do good. I'm only 22 years old and I hope I'm thinking like that when I'm 26, 27, 30. We're trying to change and people do change and there are a lot of people who really have family and now these others, they don't really have nothing to go home to. I just -- the thing and the pain I went through, I don't want nobody else to go through it.
That's all I have to say.
SEN. HARP: Great, thank you. Young man, would you like to tell us who you are and make a statement?
PHILIP CLOUTIER: I'm Philip Cloutier. I'm 14 years old and I'm with the West End Service Association and I'm a co-chair for the West NU Create Change Youth Council. And I just wanted to tell you guys how we need like programs for the kids in our community to do things because like the community center, we opened up in like last November and it was a place where the kids could go and do things and stay off the streets. And for me, I found a job at the community center with the West End Community Organizer and if I had not found that job there, who knows what I would have been doing, just chilling on the streets, doing nothing good, but I was doing something that actually mattered, you know.
And so, if we don't have programs for those kids, what are they going to be doing? They're just going to be on the streets doing nothing and they might just be put in like juvenile or something like that or jail for nothing really. So, we basically need resources for programs that can help the youth.
SEN. HARP: Thank you very much. Are there questions? If not -- yes, Representative Green.
REP. GREEN: Thank you, Madam Chair. I'm very interested in how do we prevent and avoid individuals from getting involved in the criminal justice system, but I think when we talk about prison overcrowding, the whole idea is that if we reduce the individuals going in the front end, we reduce prison population, particularly for the young person because I hear this a lot, that young people feel that there's nothing to do and so in a sense, they have no alternative but to maybe violate the law.
And then you hear other people that say well, there are things to do, but you just got to find it, there are the community centers, there are volunteer efforts, there are after school clubs. And it appears that young people sometimes don't want to go that route.
Can you tell me, what do you think young people's opinions are about going to jail? Do they sense that it's something that's going to happen to them or that it can be avoided?
PHILIP CLOUTIER: They probably think that it can be avoided.
REP. GREEN: That it can't?
PHILIP CLOUTIER: It can be avoided, but others are just like they have no hope and they're just like okay, this is going to happen to me no matter what and there's like no stopping it, so they don't really care.
What we need to do is we need to get them involved in things and get them interested in programs that they would actually like, but we need resources for that in order to do that. Like we have talent shows, parties, stuff like that, things that do good, but we need the resources for it.
SEN. HARP: Okay, great. Thank you. Further questions? Thank you very much and thank you for sharing your story. It took a lot of courage to do that and it sounds like you have a great supportive group going there, here in Hartford. So, thank you again.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: Good afternoon, Senator Harp and Representative Lawlor and members of the Appropriations and Judiciary Committees.
My name is Joseph Pellegrino. I am the Chief Court Administrator. I would like to thank the committee for inviting me here today to share the judicial branch's view on the draft bill, AN ACT CONCERNING PRISON OVERCROWDING that is the subject of today's hearing.
Many of the provisions in this bill do not directly involve the judicial branch and I'm going to confine my short remarks to three sections of the bill that I do think effects the judicial branch.
I've given you my written testimony. I am not going to read my remarks. They'll be very short. I just want to hit on three sections.
Section 10, which would allow the Commissioner of Correction to release pretrial defendants who are imprisoned because they have not met the conditions of release imposed by the judge. I think this is a function of the court. I have the highest respect and admiration for Commissioner Lantz, but I think that determination should be made by the court.
I think the problems attended to release of pretrial defendants are a question of more alternative programs that the court can divert these people to. I think the jail re-interview program that was very successful that CSSD was doing prior to the budget cuts cut into that population. I think, again, that's a question of funding and if that program could be reintroduced, I think that would cut into the release of pretrial defendants.
I don't think creating another bureaucracy to deal with this population by having the Commissioner of Corrections involved is going to correct the situation.
We support -- the branch supports Section 22 of the proposal which would expand the range of cases in which a judge may deviate from the mandatory minimum sentence for good cause shown is good. We support it. I think in the last session you did expand the cases in which a judge could change and deviate from the mandatory provisions. This expansion, I think, is good. We support that.
And finally, we support Section 28 of the proposal which would require us to implement a plan to reduce the number of technical violations. We do have a proposal. We will submit it. I have, in my written testimony, given you a kind of a synopsis of the two programs that we propose. I would call your attention to Section 29, however, which provides that the Legislature would give us funding to do these programs and I know that's a big issue, but I guess anything can be done with funding.
I have with me, seated next to me, Tom White who is the Director of Operations of CSSD who can answer any questions about the proposal that we're going to make to hopefully reduce that population. The reason -- and he's pitch hitting for Bill Carbone who, at the present time, is in Italy with his wife on their 30th anniversary celebration. So we did not think that we should call him back to testify before you. And Tom White gladly accepted the assignment and he's here and that's about all that I have. Again, I have given to you my comments in writing and I'm sure that at your leisure you will look at them.
Thank you for inviting us.
SEN. HARP: Thank you so much for your patience and for your comments. Representative Lawlor has a question or a comment.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Madam Chair. Good afternoon, Your Honor. You get an hour's comp time tomorrow because you're here over five o'clock.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: We do work beyond five.
REP. LAWLOR: I know you do, I know, I know. Judge, and Tom, as well, you know, you heard some earlier discussion involving the Commissioner of Corrections about the effects of recent rescissions on the Alternatives to Incarceration Program and DOC, you're talking about a lot of halfway house beds and other types of community supervision-type slots and I know that the rescissions have also had an affect in your agency and obviously that plays a role in the prison overcrowding problem because you're dealing mainly with -- well, in two categories, I'm assuming. One is pretrial, right, all the people on bond and second are the people who are being incarcerated because judges feel there's no other appropriate option for them and I know that you all had prepared some analysis of the impact of these rescissions. This is a bit dated, it's about six months ago, but if I understand it correctly, in order to save $6.5 million, roughly, based on the 10% budget reduction which had been ordered by the Governor in response to the budget crisis, among other things, the number of reductions that you had to implement were the equivalent of 164 beds or slots on the adult side, 86 on the juvenile side. In addition to that, you had to eliminate the Jail Re-Interview Program, which as we discussed earlier, makes it easier to identify offenders who can't post a relatively small amount of bail, but could appropriately be supervised differently and eliminate that altogether, close a 40-slot program in Bridgeport, and a 33-slot residential juvenile supervision program. On top of that, eliminate a variety of programs and a variety of AIC locations, cut back on the number of hours, cut back on the services offered on weekends, and dramatically lengthen the waiting list for a variety of different programs.
In other words, in order to save $6.2 million, all of these cuts took place, which I'm sure if we could figure out the exact inmates effected by the affect, the exact offenders effected by these, we would see that they ended up sitting in jail beds because of these reductions and ---
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REP. LAWLOR: -- I don't know, $6, $7, $8 million a year in Corrections cost if you multiply it times the number of beds.
So in other words, what I'm asking you is do you see, with appropriate funding, a way that you guys can get back to where you were just a few months ago or better yet, where you were a few years ago in terms of having a variety of options available to you? Is there any reason why we should not want to consider that if we could find the money to give to you guys to do that as opposed to paying for beds out-of-state, in essence, for these same inmates?
Is that something you guys could do if we put the money in place for you?
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: Let me give you the short answer and I think it's yes. And I think it's a question of money, as you indicated.
Now, the second half of that question is, given the money, can we get back what we had prior to the budget cuts? And the answer to that question, I'm going to defer it to Tom, but I would think we would hope so.
TOM WHITE: Representative Lawlor, obviously if we're looking at trying to set up some sort of a program that is going to positively reduce the number of technical violators that are returned to prison as well as deal, as you know, with the split sentence cases, which are coming out, then what we're finding out is that these are individuals that need significant services. Our technical violators, for example of probation violation, that are of a technical nature, are usually for their inability to meet a condition of substance abuse treatment. That means they either don't complete the program or they relapse and for us to address those kinds of issues, we need more extensive services, but we also need more intensive supervision. So we need to lower caseloads. We need to then establish programs that will be able to divert them from being returned to incarceration to address these issues because these are folks that have not committed new offenses, they have not been arrested, but they have been unable, at this point, to successfully participate in the interventions that are needed to change their behavior.
Now, with the cuts that we already had, in addition to trying to establish programs that will have a greater impact on prison overcrowding reduction, there's no question that we could put to good use a restoration of the monies that we lost, as well as additional funds that would target this very important population to address the overcrowding issue.
And that would be part of the proposal that we will submit in October for this committee's consideration.
REP. LAWLOR: I understand, but I guess my question was a little bit more specific than that. You know, we talked about new initiatives and new programs, but all I'm saying is if we could just get back to where we were a year or two ago, is there any reason that the resources that were taken offline as a result of the rescissions, couldn't simply be put back online without going through complicated siting decisions, etcetera? I mean, are these resources -- are these, in effect, mothballed as opposed to have they disappeared?
TOM WHITE: They have not disappeared. No, they're not mothballed. We've reduced the services, but the facilities still exist, the programs still exist. Yes, those services could be put back online.
REP. LAWLOR: And that's my only question. So, thank you.
SEN. HARP: Thank you. Yes, Representative Spallone.
REP. SPALLONE: Thank you, Madam Chair. Good evening, gentlemen, good evening Judge Pellegrino. I just had, I think, two questions.
The first concerns your testimony, Your Honor, regarding the pretrial release section of the proposed bill. Do you think that giving the Commissioner the powers that you were concerned about raises a separation of powers issue between the executive and judicial branches?
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: No, I'm not sure it does. I mean, that could be an argument. Maybe that's an argument that will be advanced. That's certainly a good question. (Coughing spell)
SEN. HARP: We'll stand at ease while we get some water for you. You don't have to try to talk.
REP. DYSON: So you do have a problem with Section 10?
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: Yes and --
REP. DYSON: Yes or no.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: Yes.
REP. DYSON: Is there any way that we could work out some accommodation on Section 10?
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: Yes.
REP. DYSON: Okay. That's all we need to do, is talk about Section 10.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: Okay.
REP. DYSON: Just nod, alright. Alright, we're in good shape.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: Thank you. I think it also raises due process issues in addition to separation of power as an issue. So, I think that's a problem and as I've mentioned, I think we have a duplication here. If we give that responsibility to the Commissioner of Corrections to do what a judge should be doing in terms of diverting the defendant out of Corrections, then if we did it, we'd have the Bail Commissioner monitoring that defendant to make sure that the defendant is complying with the rules of probation or whatever. Who, in her office, is going to do that?
In any event, I thought that was a problem area. I think we should re-look at it, revisit it. I think we're increasing costs rather than decreasing costs. I think the issue is give us beds, give us places to put these people to get them out.
REP. SPALLONE: I had a second question, Your Honor. There have been some discussion this evening and this afternoon about the number of prisoners who are awaiting trial or being held according to bond. And I was wondering whether during the orientation process for newly appointed judges there's any training program or time spent addressing the issue of the court's discretion regarding bond, the law and so forth? As you know, our judges come from all different areas of practice and many of them aren't familiar when they get there with that issue.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: The answer to that question is yes. We have a training program for judges when they are appointed. It's two weeks. We call it judge school. What we're training them for is the arraignment court where those decisions have to be made. And as the Representative indicates, some of these judges come from civil backgrounds, some come from other backgrounds and many do not have extensive criminal backgrounds. So we spend a lot of time on these issues because these are the issues that they will be facing when they take the Bench. So the answer to your question is yes.
REP. SPALLONE: Thank you very much.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: We have no control, though, over their discretion. And so we can talk to them and we can point out what they have to find in order to place bail and how much they should place, but we talk to them.
REP. SPALLONE: Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair.
SEN. HARP: Thank you. Representative Hamm has a question.
REP. HAMM: Hi, Your Honor. I just wanted to, in the interest of bit exploring judicial discretion, go over with you a couple of the suggestions that Judge -- I guess his name is Gist from Texas was talking about earlier today.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: Yes. He was a tough one to follow too. I had some toughies today.
REP. HAMM: Well, I guess the haircut thing kind of caught my attention and I wonder whether you thought that was the kind of thing that some of our judges might believe could be of assistance as far as an alternative sanction or if you think that's probably beyond the pale here in Connecticut.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: I'm not sure that our culture would recognize the short haircut as someone who was released and I'm not sure that that's appropriate.
REP. HAMM: And then I also wanted to ask you about the colored wrist bands because apparently there are lots of judges in Texas who are doing that.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: I'm not sure it's going to apply here.
REP. HAMM: Okay. So those two were the most interesting that I thought I would run by our judicial branch.
SEN. HARP: Thank you very much. Representative Green.
REP. GREEN: Thank you, Madam Chair. A couple of questions. On the technical violations, I'm not sure, Mr. White, if you had said that most of the technical violations for probation were because of violation of the substance abuse condition. Is that what --
TOM WHITE: Yes, the large percentage of the offenders who go back on what we call a technical violation is for failure to comply with a substance abuse treatment condition. And that's either because they don't attend the program or they relapse and have a dirty urine over a series of times and therefore, we have to violate them.
Our proposal, though, begins to look at other interventions that can be more intensive and that can bring the numbers down where we have probation officers now that may average the kind of caseloads you heard that Texas is experiencing. We do know that if we have lower caseloads and we're looking at caps of 25 for this targeted group, coupled with intensive interventions, that there's significant reason and good evidence to believe that we can begin to reduce the number of technical violators who are, at this point, failing to comply with substance abuse conditions.
REP. GREEN: Would you happen to have a breakdown of your technical violators so that I may be able to see numbers? If you violate say 100 individuals, this is 50, 60 because of this? Is it -- and I'd like to see the actual numbers and are there reasons why they're being violated?
TOM WHITE: I don't know if we have that in an aggregate form in which we can produce that. I will check on that. I know that recently we went to an office and we looked at 100 cases. Ninety percent of those 100 cases that were technical violators fell into the category of substance abusers who were unable to comply with their treatment condition.
REP. GREEN: Who had not had new arrests?
TOM WHITE: That is correct.
REP. GREEN: Okay. On the issues of bond, which concerns me and I don't want to get into it a lot, but I guess I'm always confused by listening to judges sometimes as to -- and particularly not so much the judges as much as the Bail Commissioners in terms of recommendations of bonds. You know, there's always been an attitude that first and primary of the bond is to make sure that the person returns to court --
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: Correct.
REP. GREEN: -- along with the safety of the community and those kinds of things. And it appears to me that bonds are used inappropriately and that it has a great impact economically basically that you have a number of individuals with possibly a fantastic ability to return to court based on the community, the family support, and regardless of the amount that the bond is, is that the Bail Commissioner and/or the judges are not really being that flexible in trying to make sure that's an effort versus the person being unable to do the bond and that we continue to have a number of individuals incarcerated who are waiting.
Has your department decided or will be looking into exactly this whole process with the Bail Commissioner and whether or not there's some individuals that are on bond that could be, essentially, the judge recommended that they're safe to be in the community and will return to court?
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: Representative Green, that is a frequent criticism of the system and we do look into this. We're having a seminar today and tomorrow where we bring in all of our criminal judges. I'm not sure that that is on the agenda, but I would think that there is and will be some discussion relative to that.
Insofar as the judge school that I talked about, that is talked about. The purpose of the bond is to reassure us that this person will appear in court. It's not a punishment. That's all it is, to make sure that this person will come back to court.
So I think that the judges know the law and I think the Bail Commissioners know the law, but it's a question of how they interpret the law and other factors that are brought into court. But yes, we are aware of the problem. I know the judges are aware of the problem because they read the newspaper.
And it's a continuing problem, but we will continue to address it.
REP. GREEN: Thank you.
SEN. HARP: Thank you. Are there further questions? Representative O'Neill.
REP. O'NEILL: We had this little conversation about people who couldn't make the bail as being a problem and I don't know -- I've gone through the bill and I looked through the summary. I didn't see anything in here that directly related to that and I was just wondering if there was something -- I know you are going to do the training and talk about it and so forth. Is there anything that has been proposed that's not in the bill? Perhaps the co-chairs could enlighten me if there is something that I missed that deals with that issue.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: In this bill?
REP. O'NEILL: In this bill.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: No, I didn't see anything.
REP. LAWLOR: That is the part you oppose, right?
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: No, no. I said I'm concerned about it.
REP. LAWLOR: Sorry. There's the part that you were in opposition to that dealt with pretrial offenders and treated them as if they were sentenced --
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: Right.
REP. LAWLOR: -- that's all that was.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: But that's not (inaudible) That's not a question for today.
REP. LAWLOR: Yes, it's people who can't pose --
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: They're in jail. And now is there a program to get them out of jail.
REP. LAWLOR: Correct, that's what that was. That was to say give the Commissioner of Correction the option of treating them as if they were sentenced. In other words, if they're appropriate to be in a community, put them in a community rather than having them take up a bed. That's targeted exclusively at the pretrial population.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: But I don't believe -- was that your question?
REP. O'NEILL: Not exactly. I mean, unless the basis -- well, I think the discussion that I've heard and I've seen reviewed in the paper, newspapers and television commentaries about our problem is people not being able to make bail. And the issue would then be a judge deciding it at that point what to set as an amount of money to determine how much should be posted in order to assure their return.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: The amount.
REP. O'NEILL: The amount, which really kind of just figuring out how much money you think it takes to bring somebody back. One thing I'm wondering about and I've never seen anybody do this, is there some procedure that if you think they've set, say a $5,000 bail and you think it should be $500 or something that you can -- is there a mechanism to bring that to anyone's attention beyond the arraignment judge?
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: Well, counsel can do that. The program that was in place where the probation officer went to the defendant and said what can you pay and if that was something that was reasonable, then that would be reported back to the judge, get this person in jail.
So that program was successful in doing just what you're talking about.
REP. O'NEILL: I'm sorry to have missed the first part of your testimony, but is that what program that was effected by budget reductions?
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: Right.
REP. O'NEILL: Any idea of what that program cost? I'm just wondering?
TOM WHITE: I could not give you a figure in terms of the actual services that we used in order -- certainly, that was part of the $6 million that was cut -- that we could use to provide the kinds of programs that the court would recognize as important for them then to approve a release from incarceration, but we did have around ten full-time staff assigned to the program who worked in the jails and who developed the plans to take back to the court. The result of that was that around 1,600 offenders on an annual basis who had been incarcerated out of pretrial awaiting their trial and couldn't make bond had modifications made and were removed from the jails around the State and put back into the community and they did that very successfully.
So, certainly the money that supported those ten staff, that's around $400,000 plus some additional service money is what would be needed to reinstitute that program. In addition, one of the things that we are looking at and it is has been presented to the Superior Court judges is that the Bail Commissioners base their recommendations on bond modifications or on promises to appear based on factors and criteria that are statutorily required, things that they look at, that we want to be predictive of the likelihood that they will show up in court because that's what the bond system is all about.
We have just gone through an extensive twelve month study of that tool, that mechanism and we've been in the process of redesigning it in a validated way and the training is actually happening in these two days, so that we think we will have a better tool and better information to provide to court, the judge still has full discretion to give them really a better predictability on whether or not the person will show up for trial or not and therefore what levels of bonds may or may not be set.
So that's another initiative that we've entered in. That, with the Jail Re-Interview Program, I think would address some of the concerns we had.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: The other problem was that because of layoffs -- I don't know how many, 40 or 60 probation officers were laid off. So that probation officers that were going to the jail to do this program, had to come back and fill the gaps because of the probation officers that were laid off.
So, we could not afford the manpower and womanpower to implement the program. So, we need a couple of things. We need all our probation officers back and hopefully we're going to be able to reinstitute this program.
REP. O'NEILL: Just doing the numbers and again, that's part of why we're here because it's a joint Appropriations and Judiciary Committee. I don't know what the duration of a person sitting waiting for trial after they fail to make bail was and perhaps you have some sense of whether that was a month or six months or any sense along those lines because just doing the arithmetic, even if it was only -- if it's -- let's say there are 160 beds per year being held up by people awaiting and that would be assuming that they were turning over ten times a year for people, which would require a 30, 40 day stay while waiting to go to trial and I'm not sure that's a right number, but it makes the arithmetic easy, it's maybe $400,000 and the savings for your eliminating ten positions, I think you said it was around $400,000 plus some extra money. So, it ends up being -- it sounds like a wash and I don't know, maybe the term people are spending waiting for bail was much shorter than that. But would it be likely it was less than a month while people were waiting?
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: I have no idea. I don't have stats on that. I'm sure we can get stats.
REP. O'NEILL: Because whether that cut makes sense financially, because I think it was done because somebody said it was -- I'm assuming that it was a dollars driven thing, not because there were horrendous cases of people who were given bail because they went back, got re-interviewed, got out and then did some terrible crime so somebody said we've got to cancel this program because it's bad, but it was a dollar driven thing.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: (inaudible)
REP. O'NEILL: So if it doesn't save money, it doesn't make sense.
TOM WHITE: Our calculation and again, I don't have a statistic on how long they waited in jail pending some release or on bond. But -- and you can look at all the different statistics and you can argue those out, but it appeared to us that when you translated the release of 1,600 offenders into bed days and to beds saved, it looked to us and the figures that we have used and shared with the Department of Corrections, has been that the program was able to save about 500 beds per month in any given time.
Because you have the turnover that you're talking about and so that translates into more bed days saved than it does actual offenders released. And so I think that makes the program more than cost effective.
JUDGE JOSEPH H. PELLEGRINO: I thought Commissioner Lantz, today, testified that it was cost effective.
SEN. HARP: Thank you. I think Representative Lawlor wants to make a comment. Are you finished, Representative O'Neill?
REP. O'NEILL: Yes, I am. Thank you.
SEN. HARP: Okay.
REP. LAWLOR: Just on that topic, I think it's important to point out I think Representative O'Neill was making a good point that why would you do something where to save a little bit of money here it costs you a lot of money here and I think it needs to be pointed out that it actually was a net savings to the judicial branch to do this. The new cost was not in your area, it was in the Department of Corrections. So you saved money, it just forced expenditures of other monies elsewhere. So that's not your problem, necessarily. It's our problem as the policy-makers for everybody and that's what we're trying to address here, I think today.
SEN. HARP: Thank you. Representative Dyson has a question.
REP. DYSON: Just -- I'd like to get some information from you and I know you may not have it, so obviously I'm providing you with an out if you need it.
At some point in the recent past, we had in place an AIC program, an Alternative Incarceration in which we were trying to head off people going into the system, judiciary. And that was to make consideration of those who were likely to be confined and find alternative means of dealing with them. So you head it off getting into the system.
In recent years, that has been used to cover everybody. So, in essence, you end up, for the lack of a better phrase, bastardizing a program that was intended and had succeeded at being able to keep the population down.
Now, I assume you might have some ideas of what I'm talking about. Is that correct? Now, presently, the matter in which we conduct that program does not provide us with the relief that it used to provide us with previously because we now apply it to everybody across the board rather than those that are likely to be confined, which is a different population, which provides an element of relief flirting with the system. They won't go in. You find some other means to deal with that.
I'm curious as to where that program exists and I guess I've said where. What's the likelihood of you're taking a look at what you've been doing and going back to what we used to do?
TOM WHITE: And that question has been raised quite recently with us and I cannot tell you that as I look back over the history of CSSD and, of course, this goes way back prior to the creation of CSSD, that there has been significant fundamental changes in the philosophy and the placement of offenders in our alternative incarceration centers. Most of our centers remain having about 60% of the slots that they have are provided for pretrial clients. Now, is there a possibility upon examination, which we are going to undertake, that perhaps five or six years ago that was 90%? I do not know the answer to that. We have not fundamentally changed the program. We have also always encouraged, if there was slots available in those programs, for our probation officers to use them in lieu of violation to provide services that were needed.
And I heard this recently that there is some question on how much we might have changed the complexion of the program that would have negatively effected as a diversionary program.
We haven't made those kinds of modifications other than budget cuts that would effect everybody. We are now going to take a look at that and to try to determine whether that is accurate. Certainly it is not our intent, at this point, modify or change the function of those alternative incarceration centers. And if that is happening, we will address that.
REP. DYSON: I would certainly appreciate it if you would take a look at that because unless someone is reinforcing it, that someone is familiar, what the practices were in the time past, all of the new people in the judges' school, unless someone is making that point, they won't get it and as a result, it can die by default.
No one said anything about it here. I didn't know about it, it didn't happen. So, therefore it's gone. So I would hope that you would take a look at that and see just what is happening.
TOM WHITE: And we will do that and we agree that obviously the judiciary needs to be fully appraised and aware of the services that are available so that they understand that it's at their disposal and that it's used appropriately and that it's utilized in the way it was intended to. And we will be looking at that.
SEN. HARP: Thank you very much. Are there further questions? If not, thank you so much for your patience and for your testimony.
Our next speakers will be Gloria Brown and Colleen Letizia and I probably mispronounced your name and if so, I apologize, but welcome. To be followed by Deborah DelPrete Sullivan and then we will have a panel of AFSCME, Sal Luciano and Josh Miller. Good evening, ladies.
GLORIA BROWN: Good evening.
COLLEEN LETIZIA: Good evening.
GLORIA BROWN: Members of the Appropriations and Judiciary Committees, we thank you for allowing us again to come before you once again.
On April 3rd of this year, we came before you to speak in support of the bill, H.B. 6687, H.B. 6692, H.B. 6694, and S.B. 1133. The proposal of these bills, as you know, are kind of known as building bridges.
Along with our support for the legislation, we told you about our personal testimonies of addiction and our involvement in the criminal justice system. Several years ago both of us were clients at the New Opportunities, Inc. Alternative Incarceration Center Program in Waterbury. We're proud to say today we are both college graduates and working in that same alternative incarceration center program.
While the language in the proposal was heard in April was slightly different from some of what is being heard today, our testimonies and our continued commitment to advocating for alternative to incarceration programs, transitional services for offenders, impact changes that would help those with addiction get treatment and a chance to change their lives has not changed.
We ask you to please, when you get an opportunity, to take a moment to re-read our testimonies submitted in April and we plead with you, we urge you, we beg you to vote for the changes laid out in the working draft on prison overcrowding.
Without these changes, the prison overcrowding crisis in Connecticut will grow and the precious resources will continue to be spent on out-of-state prison beds instead on programs those offenders will make a change if given an opportunity.
I would like to say we stand before you as once ex-offenders who were given an opportunity to take that which was a negative and turn it into a positive. A negative in the (inaudible) prison system, the criminal justice system, and turn it into a positive by being productive citizens, working citizens, taxpayer citizens, law abiding citizens.
Again, we humbly thank you for your time and giving us the opportunity to speak before you again.
We thank you for your efforts and concerns. May God bless you.
COLLEEN LETIZIA: My name is Colleen Letizia. I just wanted to wrap up some of my testimony that I handed in already previously, but when I was arrested, the jail re-interview program is what helped me to enter the AIC, alternative incarceration center, which without that program, I believe I would have been totally lost. I mean, when I went into that program, it gave me a structured environment to live in. Before that, I was living in my car. So it gave me a structured environment. It gave me the ability to reach out and get help. It gave me other programs within that agency such as Jobs Now, such as gaining -- which helped me with my birth certificate. It just -- things that you have to have to get back on your feet, to get employment. I was able to get employment because of that other program within the same agency. And after that, I was able to save the money to move on to my own apartment and this was before I was even sentenced in the courtroom and once I pleaded all those things, because of the help I received in the AIC program, and the direction. That was the main thing. I got direction from people. People were actually able to guide me into the places I had to go, but I had to go there, I had to do it, but I was able to be guided, which is what I needed. And once that happened, you know, I'm a productive member of society. I just graduated and got a degree and that's long coming for me and I plan on continuing.
But I just know that these programs that have been reduced are most needed. They are definitely most needed. There are so many people out there that don't know what to do. They just need to be guided in the right direction and whether that take that guidance is up to them ultimately, but there's a lot of people that need the direction and want it and unfortunately there's not enough programs out there to give it.
And I just -- I'm glad to be able to speak here in front of you today.
SEN. HARP: Thank you both so much for coming. Are there questions? I just wanted to say, Representative Green has a question.
REP. GREEN: I just want to know, are you registered voters?
GLORIA BROWN: Yes, absolutely.
COLLEEN LETIZIA: Yes.
SEN. HARP: I just want to tell you how proud I am of the work that you've done with your lives and that your trials have really made you very strong and someone that I look up to.
So, thank you very much and thank you for having the courage to testify before us today.
GLORIA BROWN: Thank you.
COLLEEN LETIZIA: Thank you.
SEN. HARP: The next person to come before us is Deborah DelPrete Sullivan.
DEBORAH DELPRETE SULLIVAN: Excuse me, but someone left their pocketbook right up here.
REP. DYSON: They'll be back.
SEN. HARP: We have a pocketbook that someone left.
DEBORAH DELPRETE SULLIVAN: Thank you and good evening. Thank you very much, Senator Harp, Representative Dyson, Representative Lawlor. My name is Deborah DelPrete Sullivan. I extend the apologies of Gerard Smyth who is the Chief Public Defender who had a prior commitment and could not be here today or this evening.
My name is Deborah DelPrete Sullivan. I'm counsel to the agency and if I may, I will read his testimony into the record.
We are supportive of the majority of the proposals that are contained in this working draft of the prison overcrowding, LCO 8132. The Office thanks both committees for their efforts in drafting this piece of legislation to achieve reductions in prison overcrowding in the State, while providing adequate supervision and alternatives to incarceration, which include treatment alternatives for persons who are close to completing their sentence.
The bill, as drafted, has considered not only public safety, but the support needs that are necessary to assist offenders as they reintegrate into society.
There is a concern, however, in regard to the proposed language contained in Section 1. First, it is not clear whether replacing the 15-member part-time Parole Board with an 8-member Parole and Pardons Board comprised of those members and a full-time chair of the Board of Pardons and Paroles would substantially advance the goals to reduce prison overcrowding. The concern is that any reduction in the number of members for those boards might increase the workload and possibly result in delays in the releases of some inmates who are actually eligible.
Secondly, the proposed legislation reduces the number of members that are assigned to hear a Pardons Hearing from five to three and it changes the qualifications for members who serve on such. In addition, the legislation permits the chairperson not only to serve on both the Pardons panels and Parole Release panels, but requires the chairperson to serve on the panel for a hearing on the commutation from the imposition of the death penalty.
In Connecticut, the authority to commute death sentences to life imprisonment without the possibility of release is vested in the Board of Pardons. While the Governor does not have such authority, the Governor does directly appoint all five members of the Board of Pardons currently who are responsible for making such determinations. This proposal would transfer that power over to the membership of the Board of Pardons and the composition of those panels for the hearings on commutations from the penalty of death to the chairperson of the Board of Pardons and Parole.
While the Governor would appoint eight members in total to the Board, including the chairperson, the chairperson would decide which three members would be assigned exclusively to pardons hearings and would further select the two members who would participate with the chairmen in individual death penalty commutation hearings and that is of such grave importance of the penalty of death, authority and responsibility for determining the membership of the Board of Pardons should appropriately remain with the Governor, as provided under current law.
In addition, all members should participate in an individual commutation hearing so as to avoid influencing the outcome on the basis of which members are assigned to a particular hearing. Current law, it's 18-24a, currently provides that the members of the Board of Pardons be residents of the State and also requires that three members shall be attorneys. One shall be skilled in one of the social sciences and one shall be a physician. And not more than three of any of such members holding office at any one time shall be members of any one political party.
The proposed legislation requires only that the chairperson, who is appointed by the Governor as compared to being elected by the Board, shall be qualified and this is quoted language "by education, experience, and training in an administration of community, corrections, probation, or parole.
While not opposed to these criteria, the Office of Chief Public Defender believes that the qualifications already required pursuant to Connecticut law, should not be eliminated especially in those cases where a person seeks a hearing on the commutation for the imposition of the death penalty, the process requires that attorneys comprise the panel.
Therefore, the Office of Chief Public Defender respectfully urges the committees first, to retain the Board of Parole and the Board of Pardons as separate entities. Secondly, not to decrease the number of members for the Board of Parole or Board of Pardons. And three, to maintain the current educational requirements for members on the Board of Pardons and I thank you for allowing me to testify in his place and the opportunity to testify for our agency on this proposal.
SEN. HARP: Thank you very much. Are there questions? Yes, Representative Green.
REP. GREEN: I guess I want to try to tie in the Office of Public Defender with prison overcrowding in the sense that again, I hear things like you're more likely to do time if you have a public defender versus a private attorney.
Do you have any information on possibly cases that public defenders handle? How many of those individuals might get convicted versus non-public defender cases? Any kind of comparisons, studies?
DEBORAH DELPRETE SULLIVAN: I don't have any comparisons. We only have the numbers of those cases that we're appointed on.
REP. GREEN: On those individuals awaiting bond, which I might assume that if they can't post bond, they might be eligible for public defender services. Any information that you have in terms of how many people are awaiting trial may have public defender services and whether or not there's a difference in the amount of time that they wait for a disposition of their case being under a public defender's case?
DEBORAH DELPRETE SULLIVAN: I don't think we have any information like that. I'm not sure that that type of information exists to compare private bar to the public defender services and each case is so unique and different that it's difficult to say what the reasons might be for -- I don't want to just call them delays, but for reasons for continuances in cases taking longer than other cases.
Sometimes a lengthier amount of time actually helps in the disposition and there are those times, of course, when they're awaiting trial and so there could be reasons why delays or continuances may be requested by either side and, of course, we have to comply within the speedy trial statute, but there are requests and many times they can benefit the defendant.
REP. GREEN: If a defendant is presented before a judge and the Bail Commissioner, sometimes I see the Bail Commissioner go up and recommend the bail. And sometimes that's the first time the offender, the alleged offender has appeared. If they're eligible for a public defender, sometimes I guess I've seen the public defender immediately assign to stand up there next to them.
I guess I get concerned because I'm wondering if the Bail Commissioner has done some work to recommend the bail. How does a public defender argue whether that's a good figure or a high figure, a low figure, right figure if they haven't been designated as being the public defender? And I'm wondering how often or what do you think about your office in arguing for bail, setting bail, say maybe the second time the person comes because it seems to me that it really is not -- it is very difficult for a public defender to do that the first time if they were assigned. I'm just wondering why it's not, in a sense, routine for the public defender to at least question the bail amount.
DEBORAH DELPRETE SULLIVAN: Well, in my experience and I had started off in the GA in Stamford. From my experience and from what I know of the current practice, in all of our offices we do have a screening process that occurs every morning and whether it be the attorney that actually goes downstairs into a lockup area in the courthouse, if it's there, or it's the investigator. Each person that is in lockup is to be interviewed to see if they're eligible for the services of a public defender and if they are found indigent, then we would recommend appointment. And as it appears, as it happens in most of the courts, you have a public defender or two, if it's a very busy jurisdiction like Hartford or New Haven at the GA's, where they may have two public defenders actually assigned to handle the arraignments that day and they go on a rotating basis.
And so those two people will take whatever those interview notes are, not just what the Bail Commissioner's form may have for information. And that's what they would actually be arguing from as to whether or not the bail is appropriate that's been recommended.
And then as far as coming back to court, there are provisions, I believe, under the Practice Book, that you're able -- counsel is able to request, as Judge Pellegrino pointed out, that bail be reconsidered and that's up to the attorney. You don't want to bring everybody back before the court to have bail be reconsidered if you don't have a real reason to do so for credibility reasons.
REP. GREEN: So if the public defender would have to ask for a reconsideration of the bail for that to be considered at the appearance?
DEBORAH DELPRETE SULLIVAN: Well, and that would be later on in the process. And I forgot exactly what the time may be and I don't know if Representative Lawlor remembers from his time as a prosecutor. I thought it might be two weeks or so, but there has to be some time that elapses. It's not something you can just come back two days later.
REP. GREEN: But if there's no request, there's not necessarily --
DEBORAH DELPRETE SULLIVAN: You can make a motion for a bond reduction. I mean, they do it in court routinely.
REP. GREEN: You have to request, you have to make a motion for a bond reduction?
DEBORAH DELPRETE SULLIVAN: Yes. It would be counsel that would do that.
REP. GREEN: Okay, thank you.
SEN. HARP: Thank you. Are there further questions? If not, thank you very much.
DEBORAH DELPRETE SULLIVAN: Thank you very much.
SEN. HARP: Our next speakers are Sal Luciano and Josh Miller.
And then there's one other person who will be coming with you and he can (inaudible) John Pepe. John Pepe, okay. Welcome, gentlemen.
SAL LUCIANO: Good evening. My name is Sal Luciano. I'm the Executive Director of Council for AFSCME, AFLCIO.
Our union represents 35,000 workers in public and private sectors including Locals 387, 391, and 1565 within the Department of Correction as well as clerical support.
We appreciate the time and energy your committees have invested in trying to come to grips with an issue as complex as prison overcrowding.
Council 4 vehemently opposes the transfer of inmates to out-of-state prisons (inaudible) to the State budget deficit and as a solution for putting inmates on the right track.
At a time of record high unemployment and general economic distress, the Rowland administration has asked you to undertake an action that we view as harmful to our members and the communities we even live. The Governor and the Department of Corrections Management insists transferring inmates would yield significant savings, but what they aren't telling the public is the true cost of such a measure.
More of our administration officials say where the prisoners will go. Virginia, for example, is over-populated. You heard a little earlier that Texas is full. Is there any sane reason why we are not being told the prisoners targeted destination? To export prisoners beyond state boundaries is to directly export funding of public employees in this state to privatized or public employees in another state. In other words, the Rowland administration and the Department of Correction want to spend our money in another state and it will not have the beneficial impact of stimulating Connecticut's ---
(inaudible-tape switched from side 4A to side 4B-some testimony and dialogue not recorded)
SAL LUCIANO: --- we need those tax dollars in this state to create purchasing power that will buy homes, cars, meals, consumer goods, and yes, the taxes that that generates.
In a time when Connecticut residents and businesses are suffering economically, the Rowland/DOC plan will further suck the life blood and only serve to create more unemployment and more mayhem within the prisons that remain open.
We also question the wisdom of moving prisoners out-of-state at a time when viable rehabilitative alternatives clearly exist, alternatives you are considering right now with your legislative leadership.
We are on record as saying that hundreds of empty beds exist now in various correctional facilities. We have also been consistently on record in supporting alternative incarceration programs for first time offenders, those with drug and alcohol addictions and mentally ill people with no other place to go and others who would benefit from rehabilitation in a facility other than our prisons.
By taking advantage of current empty beds and more aggressively utilizing alternative incarceration programs, Connecticut can avoid the costly mistakes and the devastating impact which will inevitably result from transferring prisoners out-of-state.
Connecticut legislators have rightfully criticized companies like Pratt & Whitney and Stanley Works for sending jobs out-of-state and seeking to escape their tax obligations. We urge you not to allow state agencies like the Department of Correction in on the act. Connecticut should be known for exporting machine tools and airplane parts and college educated people from this state, not our prisoners.
Thank you very much.
JOSH MILLER: Good evening. My name is Josh Miller and I'm a labor economist with AFSCME International out of Washington, D.C.. We represent approximately 80,000 corrections employees across the nation, including our members here at Council 4 in Connecticut.
I'm here to talk to you today about the possible export of 2,000 inmates and the adverse effects of that endeavor.
First, I'd like to say that I've done a cursory analysis of the amount of bed space that exists across the country based on the available data. Also, I've spoken with corrections officials across the country. I routinely travel and talk with them and also talk with them on the phone and I've also talked with the federal Bureau of Prison officials, as well about available bed space and based on what I've been able to find, basically I feel that in order for Connecticut to export 2,000 inmates, it will have to use a private prison firm in order to do that because in public facilities, the bed space just doesn't exist at this time.
That being said, AFSCME has been tracking private prisons for about twenty years, since 1983 with CCA, when the biggest privatizer of prisons came into being. And basically what we found is that the private prison model is flawed. What you find in private prisons is you find a lot of employee turnover, you find them in staffing, inadequate employee training, unqualified and inexperienced staff, inmate abuse, and poor services.
Now, these are both predictable and preventable, but the problem is that the model was set up such that the officers and the company are basically beholding to Wall Street and because they need to generate profit and because they need to satisfy their bottom line, they don't always exercise correctional wisdom. So they know these problems exist.
And national statistics substantiate these observations. For example, the corrections yearbook, which is a very well regarded publication for correction statistics, reported recently that the average turnover in private prisons is 52.2% and that figure is one that is self-reported. We've actually seen figures as high 200 and 300 percent in private prisons which means that they turnover the staff in the prison, the entire staff, two or three times and that's compared to a national average of around 16% in publicly run prisons.
What does this high turnover mean? High turnover means that you have what you call a "green staff", which means that you have an inexperienced staff and one of the affects of that -- well, let me give you an example. George Washington University Professor James Austin, whose an expert in private prisons and also inmate classification and also James Austin, I believe, did an op-ed piece not too long ago in one of the Connecticut papers about alternatives. He conducted a major study comparing the rates of major incidents in private and public prisons of comparable security levels and found that private prisons had 50% more inmate on staff assaults and two-thirds more inmate-on-inmate assaults. So, that tells you a little bit about the kind of environment that you're dealing with.
One of the ways that private companies try to market what they're doing is by claiming that they can save jurisdictions 15 to 20 percent. I'm sure some of you, if not all of you, have been to NCSL conferences and things of that nature and you've gotten pamphlets from private prison companies and they have these marketing costs and talk about how much they can save. Actually, there are a lot of those, but there are numerous non-biased studies which haven't been financed by the companies and haven't been financed by anyone whose predisposed any way. For example, the U.S. General Accounting Office did a study that didn't find any savings in privately operated prisons.
Another well regarded study was commissioned by then Attorney General Janet Reno in 1998 and she didn't conclude that private prisons save tax dollars either.
As a matter of fact, most researchers agree that per diem costs are attributable to such institutional characteristics as a facility's size. When you think about economies of scale, for example, the security level, obviously and the age of the facility because of maintenance costs. So those are the types of drivers.
Another issue that comes up and when you're talking about comparing public and private, is the fact that privates routinely cherry pick. We've seen this time and time again. As a matter of fact, I think we've submitted to you a study by an Ohio think tank called Policy Matters Ohio, which did an empirical analysis of the situation in Ohio which demonstrated that Ohio prison administrators were sending less expensive inmates to private facilities, thereby artificially inflating reported cost savings. We've seen this in Arizona and other places, as well.
In a similar instance, it was reported that Tennessee, in Tennessee, rather, the private prisons don't house any inmates with full blown AIDS. Typically, the private prisons will have in their contracts a cap on their health care costs and Tennessee, for example, is $7,500. So anything over that, the State picks up. So this has a disproportionate effect, obviously, on the public system because they're left with the most costly inmates and why this is important is because when you're making any kind of comparisons between public and private, if you don't really segregate that data and really analyze it and look at the differences in the inmate population, then you get a false picture of what cost savings exist, if any exist at all. This is a subject that Connecticut should be familiar with because my understanding is that Connecticut has been engaged in this process by sending Level Four security inmates to Virginia who have no mental health, medical or disciplinary issues, thereby leaving the most costly inmates in Connecticut.
Now, talking about cost, another real important issue is liability and this is one of the hidden costs and there are many hidden costs in prison privatization.
Liability is important because when you send inmates out-of-state, it's difficult to monitor those contracts. You folks have been dealing with a public facility or two public facilities in Virginia. Don't think that that is the same as dealing with a private facility because typically when you're dealing with public facilities, the information is subject to open records requests. When you're dealing with private facilities, they will tell you that the information is proprietary and we've seen that time and time again where jurisdictions could not get information because it's proprietary and part of their business practice, etcetera, etcetera.
Irregularities often are not known until there is a major lawsuit, riot, escape, something dramatic happens. And I'll give you a couple of examples.
A few years ago, maybe five years ago, you might have seen on national television some film footage about some inmates being beaten in Bozoria County, Texas. Those were inmates that were sent from Missouri to Bozoria County, but Bozoria didn't know what was happening to their inmates until they saw them on t.v. being beaten. That resulted in a $2.2 million settlement for Missouri inmates.
In a similar instance, Hawaii found out how difficult it was to monitor their inmates. They sent them to Arizona and when they sent their contract monitors out, one was a female. She couldn't even tour the facility because it was so violent. The other contract monitors couldn't tour many parts of the facility because it was violent. This was in April, 2001 and just in April there were six reported cases of inmate assaults and two inmate deaths. In addition, there was a riot that occurred involving inmates and staff and the staff reported that they feared for their life and there was staff that were actually paying inmates to protect them. In effect, what had happened was a gang out of Hawaii had taken over the facility and this is why the monitors couldn't go to different parts of the facility and audit it.
Washington, D.C. also learned about this firsthand. I'm sure some of you must have heard of Youngstown, Ohio, CCA's infamous facility where in a floor security, CCA, the largest and most experienced private prison operator, failed to accomplish the basic mission of correctional safety and in a little over a year, there were twenty inmate stabbings, two homicides, and a major escape.
An investigative report, by then Attorney General Janet Reno, concluded that the facility opened with no policies and procedures in place and had lacked security, inexperience, and poorly trained staff, few educational and work opportunities for inmates, and before closing the facility because of a lack of contracts, CCA was hit with a $1.7 million inmate settlement for abuse.
Shortly after Youngstown, CCA was hit with another settlement by a federal grand jury which awarded more than $3 million to a teenager who sued CCA for abuse. The jury found that CCA had a "corporate policy of using excessive force to control teens sent to its facility". So, this wasn't an anomaly. This was determined to be a corporate policy, part of their business practice.
With the lawsuit awards escalating and the industry's abusive techniques increasingly exposed,
it's just a matter of time before a contracting jurisdiction, possibly Connecticut, will have to share in the financial liability of such suits and suffer a severe financial loss.
REP. DYSON: Mr. Miller.
JOSH MILLER: In fact, just last month --
REP. DYSON: We got the point.
JOSH MILLER: Okay.
REP. DYSON: We got the point.
JOSH MILLER: Can I just -- one more?
REP. DYSON: Okay.
JOSH MILLER: Just last month, jurors awarded $35 million in actual damages and $5.1 million in punitive damages against Florida-based Correctional Services Corporation, which is another company that operates juvenile and adult private facilities. Actually, the biggest juvenile operator.
And I just want to leave you by telling you one more thing. Speaking of Correctional Services Corporation, the Arizona Department of Correction shipped hundreds of inmates to a CSC run facility in Newton, Texas in 2002 basically thinking -- they were having a budget problem. They had a perceived overcrowding problem and they were thinking pretty much like legislators here that we can export our inmates out on a short term contract to this private prison in Newton, Texas and everything would be okay. Well, the monitors from Arizona later reported that the facility and the staff were ill-prepared. There were riots. They destroyed everything. The end result that it wound up costing Arizona more money and not saving them any money.
So, in closing, I would like to say, let us learn from that mistake and the others that I have delineated in my testimony. Shipping prisoners to a private prison will not save money. It is bad corrections policy that will wind up costing Connecticut taxpayers more.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Mr. Pepe.
JOHN PEPE: Yes. Good evening, members of the committee. My name is John Pepe. I'm President of AFSCME Local 391, one of the three Connecticut correction locals which represents over 5,000 employees in the Department of Correction.
More importantly, I am a thirteen year correctional employee. I'm a correction officer and I work at the Northern Correctional facility at this time.
I submitted my testimony. I'm just going to go briefly over a few points that my members think is very important, myself, also.
One of them is the overcrowding. The Commissioner has repeatedly used the term "crowded" and not overcrowding and it's my feeling, working in the prison, that we are not overcrowded. We do have a crowding issue, which can be resolved through the Alternative Incarceration Program, but at this point, we are not overcrowded.
The second major point I have is the inmate population today in Connecticut prisons can and should be managed by Connecticut. We shouldn't be shipping out inmates out and have other people deal with our problems when us, as proud union members, when we do the job, we're not complaining about any crowding conditions. We have handled the inmate population and we will continue to do so.
Shipping inmates out-of-state when we have 240 beds at the McDougal-Walker expansion where I represent those members. We also have 382 empty beds in the Cheshire facility that aren't on line that we have been asking for years for them to be put on line. That's 650 Level Four high security beds that we have at this moment at those two facilities and representing eight of the facilities, I can tell you we still have empty beds in those other facilities.
During earlier testimony, Commissioner Lantz acknowledged that there are over 1,500 Level One security inmates currently incarcerated. That 75% or 74%, she said, could be released if they could get the beds. This is something that I think should be the focal point with what the Legislature is here for today is to look into that because get rid of those 1,500 into halfway house beds, I have to believe they cost less than prison beds or Level Four prison beds and that would reduce any crowding that we have at this time.
Connecticut has a unique opportunity to learn from other states' experiences in the recent past dealing with the increasing incarceration rate in its correctional facilities. Now is the time for Connecticut to be progressive in managing the inmate population and provide the resources to those offenders soon to be released to the community.
Sending inmates out-of-state is not a sensible long term solution. The goal should be to encourage inmate contact with their families and community resources, not isolating and warehousing them in other states.
Connecticut needs to provide a support system that will give offenders not only the proper supervision, but also the tools to thrive as productive citizens of Connecticut.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Are there any comments or questions from members of the committee? Representative Green.
REP. GREEN: I guess just some clarification. I think recently I read that correctional officers were, in fact, complaining quite loudly that the conditions in the prisons were unsafe and that part of it was because of overcrowding. Did I misread of misunderstand some of the comments a few months ago?
JOHN PEPE: I believe you misunderstood. The thing that we've been talking about is the inmate incarceration has increased. The staffing posting at each facility has decreased, not the number of officers, you might have 200 officers at the facilities, but the number of officers on shift to watch those inmates each day. So, first shift, where we used to have 70 officers, we now have 50 or 60. So you've taken 10 officers away from that shift to watch those inmates. That makes it dangerous.
REP. DYSON: Representative Metz.
REP. METZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will just say at the outset that I disagree with you about the validity of sending prisoners out-of-state. I think it's a good program and it has some very positive aspects to it. Most of the people sitting here disagree with me. But I think in the long run, probably your point of view will prevail and we will stop doing that after a while.
Probably you're right that there are more shortcomings to the program than there are benefits and in the end, that's the way the Legislature will go.
And, in fact, the purpose of this panel is to explore alternatives to incarceration which, as you point out, would be preferable to sending prisoners out-of-state.
But I am bewildered by the fact that you, Mr. Pepe and Mr. Luciano, sit here and tell us that we don't have a condition of overcrowding in the prisons when, like Representative Green and I have read in the papers, that correction officers have complained about that frequently and then the Commissioner comes before us and tells us that she has prisoners sleeping on gymnasium floors because she has no -- beds set up on gymnasium floors because she has not enough facility space.
And what are we missing there? Why am I not understanding? Why are you disagreeing with the Commissioner on that basis? Why is she disagreeing with you? And why are you disagreeing with what we're reading in the papers that other correction officers are saying?
JOHN PEPE: The inmates sleeping on the floor are at the jails and those are the pretrial inmates and where you really need to concentrate your resources on how you're going to deal with those inmates, the Level Four, the pretrial, they're the ones sleeping on the floors.
I represent eight facilities up in Enfield, Suffield, and Somers and they're not sleeping on the gymnasium floors. They're prisons. The jails, you have, because you have people coming in, 30, 40 a night, maybe more that need temporary housing and their temporary housing are cots that lay on the gymnasium floor.
SAL LUCIANO: And the other issue in terms of staffing is much different than overcrowding, as John tried to explain before. If you have prisoners that need to be brought to the hospital or whatever and there's not enough staff back to make sure that there's enough security, then that's a problem not of overcrowding, but that's a problem of not enough staffing and that's what you read and that's what Representative Green read and that's the complaint, not the overcrowding.
REP. METZ: Excuse me. So what you're saying is that when the Commissioner tells us that she has an overcrowding problem, she is speaking only of pretrial incarceration. She is not speaking about people who have been incarcerated after trial and are presently in our prison system?
JOHN PEPE: What I would say is all the quotes I've read from the Commissioner and that she testified here is that she does not have an overcrowding problem. Everyone else will refer to it as an overcrowding. She specifically put it in her editorial and mentioned it again today, she has a crowding. Every prison in the United States is crowded. There are a lot of inmates and I think the United States has the most inmates out of everybody.
But are we overcrowded? Are you getting ready to release 2,000 - 3,000 out into the community? That's overcrowding. We're crowded. We have a lot of inmates in the jails. She's not going to close any facilities.
SAL LUCIANO: And if I might add, I don't -- I think she was telling one of the oaths, you know, where you say you're going to tell the truth and I think that's what she did, but I'm not sure she told the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I mean, there are additional beds, as we said, that are available to be opened. At least 600 that we've identified. She said she wouldn't close entire prisons, but that doesn't mean she's saying she won't close part of the prisons. And the other piece that somebody else picked up on is she said, "as of today".
So, do I believe she was telling the truth? Yes. Do I believe there were things that she omitted? Absolutely.
REP. METZ: Well, I think these are very important facts and very important assumptions on your part and things that we should be looking into. I suspect that, frankly, all of us are looking to go in the same direction that you're recommending. You put a heavy emphasis on the out-of-state issue, which I would have to agree, although I do disagree with you basically about it. I would agree that it's a more short term solution than a long term solution and it's getting past that short term problem that is of concern to me because I just don't think we can ignore the fact that our prisons are crowded or overcrowded, whichever it is. We're going to have to deal with that.
We have some pretty good ideas being put forth about alternatives and hopefully we'll pursue it, but I guess we'll all be working together on that.
Thank you very much.
JOHN PEPE: Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Thank you. Are there any other comments or questions from members of the committee? Representative Lawlor.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just had a couple of things.
First of all, I think it's important, this discussion that was just taking place between Representative Metz and you guys, to make -- to underscore once again that we are making these distinctions which often are sort of lost on people and I think the distinction you guys were making is sort of our like our violent/non-violent, the long term/short term inmates, the pretrial/sentenced inmates that I think most of us tend to look at while there's a prison and everybody in it is like a bank robber or something like that and that's really not the case at all. And it's always been my experience, as well, that this overcrowding issue is in the local jails. That's also where the short term sentenced inmates tend to be, the guys doing a six month sentence. That's where the problem is. Those tend to be the relatively non-violent, less serious offenders. That's the target population for all of the proposals we've talked about here and no one is proposing letting out murderers or rapists or robbers. That was what it was like ten years ago. Those days are gone. And that is the distinction that I hear from the correction officers, by the way and you heard -- and one thing the Commissioner did say which surprised me is she said that the rate of persons with mental illness coming in is the same, it's just they get bigger populations, so it's the same percentage of a bigger population.
But that's not what I've heard from the guys on the front line, especially in these community correctional centers that more and more the cops are just dumping -- they won't take them to the emergency room, they're bringing them to the jail and are your members saying the same thing?
JOHN PEPE: Yes.
SAL LUCIANO: We'd be remiss if we didn't point out that the statistics vary, but we believe it's like one in eight, one in nine people that come in have mental health issues and that's really their major problem. And correction officers are professional. They provide great security against felons, but they're not psychiatrists and this is really not the place for mentally ill people to be and there's a real question as to whether they're getting the proper medication, etcetera. And we would be remiss if we didn't mention that piece.
JOHN PEPE: We're building a whole -- or we built a facility for Level Four high security inmates and the Commissioner is going to turn it into a mental health unit and that speaks for itself.
REP. LAWLOR: That's Garner, right?
JOHN PEPE: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: And just one question for Mr. Miller. You had a long list of abuses in the private out-of-state correctional business and one thing you didn't mention, which I have always thought as significant and I was wondering if you had any information on this and there have been a couple of incidents of this recently. I think it was Texas that in a private facility inmates had been sent from some other state and there was an escape and the private company didn't notify anybody of the escape, especially the sending state, and the first thing anybody knew is when these guys had gotten arrested in a robbery, I think it was a day or two later, and I know that another problem similar to that is when there is an escape sometimes, since they're not inmates legally in that state under the state's jurisdiction, you can't even charge them with escape because they're actually supposed to be in a different state.
Do you have any more information on those kinds of situations?
JOSH MILLER: That happens a lot and the reason is you have to think about it, if they admit that there was an escape, then that has an adverse effect on the share price and everything else. So what they will try to do is wait until the last possible minute to let that information out and typically what happens is that a lot of times folks that escape get a big head start that way. So they won't let you know unless it's absolutely necessary and that has happened repeatedly.
In terms of inmates escaping and not being able to be charged, that happened in Texas where you had inmate rapists that were exported into an INS facility. The folks in Texas thought they were only supposed to be INS people in this facility that CCA was operating. They didn't know that the rapists from Oregon were even at the facility, but CCA needed to fill all those beds because they needed to maximize profit.
So what happened is that when those inmates escaped, first of all they didn't tell anybody and then when the Texas authorities found out, they couldn't charge them with the crime of escape because at the time it wasn't a crime to escape from a corporation in Texas.
They've since changed the law, but I mean that does happen. So that raises other issues, especially for host jurisdictions.
REP. LAWLOR: And how many escapes have there been from the Connecticut Department of Correction in the last ten years?
JOHN PEPE: I don't think any.
JOSH MILLER: Let me say one other thing about what you said about the mental health. I think the national statistics that I've seen would support the assertion that the rate is increasing as they close psychiatric hospitals and things of that nature.
REP. DYSON: What rate is increasing?
REP. LAWLOR: You were talking before about the percentage of mental ill persons at --
JOSH MILLER: Exactly. That rate is increasing because of the closure of hospitals and things of that nature.
REP. DYSON: Okay, are there any other comments or questions from members of the committee? Thank you very much.
JOHN PEPE: Thank you.
SAL LUCIANO: Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Next, Mr. Adinolfi, followed by Barbara Fair and Philip Cloutier and Maureen Price.
REP. ADINOLFI: Thank you, Chairman Dyson. Good afternoon, Chairman Dyson, Senator Harp - I see she stepped away, and Representative Lawlor, and members of the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees.
For the record, I am State Representative Al Adinolfi, representing the 103rd Assembly District, which includes parts of Cheshire, Wallingford, and Hamden. As you know, Cheshire has a pretty large prison facility in it also.
I appear before you today as you consider testimony concerning the issue of prison overcrowding and its financial and practical consequences to the State of Connecticut.
Make no mistake, the only way to reduce our prison population is to release convicted criminals back into society. Many times, this is done well ahead of the scheduled end of their prison sentence and in several instances, poses a real and substantial threat to the communities we are attempting to protect through our correction system.
I would like to share with you a powerful story of grief, anguish, and frustration that a constituent of mine shared with me. That's why I'm here today.
The personal experiences speak louder to me on the merit of our policies toward incarceration and they charge every member of these communities to remember this tale when your time comes to vote on reconfiguring our present system because it expresses the human toll our policy has taken on society when we focus on saving a few dollars and lose possibly the sight of our mission to protect the public.
I have received permission to share this story provided I protect the identity of the victim. In that interest, I will not use her real name and will refer to her as "Jane".
Jane is a 24 year old college student who was at home alone on the evening of just this past Friday, August 29th, four weeks ago. She has just moved to Connecticut just three weeks prior to attend school here. That evening, a man broke into her home and sexually violated her in the most unspeakable ways. There is no way to present the graphic details of this assault to this panel in any dignified way, save to say that this man took his time with Jane and he took photographic evidence of the assault himself, which he threatened to distribute if she contacted the police.
Shortly after that particular rape and her description, the police apprehended the perpetrator shortly after the attack. As it turns out, this individual was allegedly a registered sex offender. I couldn't find him anywhere in the listing. Perhaps after he was arrested, they possibly took him off.
He had been released from prison last August 4th, three weeks prior to this rape. Two nights prior to the attack on Jane, the same perpetrator also sexually attacked a mother of two while her children watched in horror. This convicted rapist had been in our criminal justice system and had been sentenced to twenty years in prison for past attacks of this nature. At one point, for good behavior, he was released on parole when he promptly violated the terms of his parole, it landed him a short six-month return to prison.
After serving only fourteen years of his sentence, he was released, moving a block away from Jane's residence. Within three weeks of his release, he committed two rapes and attempted a third. I didn't say before, when they caught him two hours after the second rape, he was attempting the third rape.
When apprehended, the first thing he said to the detectives was that he has a problem and vowed he would commit such crimes again. He confessed. This very disturbed man -- I have to correct my one statement, was arraigned yesterday in New Haven. Our criminal justice system has clearly failed Jane. Why did it fail and what can we do to make certain that such (inaudible) never occur again in the future? The reality is that this man should have never been released from prison. The analysis given to this criminal, which evaluated him as ready to return to society, had demonstrated that he has no absolutely no credibility whatsoever.
What we considered mandated early release for criminals just to save a few dollars and their prison beds, we are, in a sense, sentencing the members of the public that our laws are suppose to protect to be placed at the mercy of criminals such as the one who attacked Jane last month.
I urge this committee to consider the real cost, the cost to our friends, families, and citizens and failing our charge to uphold the rule of law and follow through on prison sentences (inaudible).
I thank the committee for this time. I would just like to make one comment. This girl is a very, very brave girl, very education, 24 years old. We were trying to get her to come here somehow, but we couldn't protect her identity. She wants to stay private, but she is willing, at any time, if the chairs of the committee and the ranking members of the committee would like to meet with her in private. She has a lot of insight on this and really wants to share this information with you. And perhaps for the Judiciary members of the committee, I talked to her yesterday and this young lady was raped on August 29th and it wasn't until yesterday when the judge made a ruling saying it was okay to test the perpetrator to see if he any communicable diseases. Why did we have to wait four weeks? Do you realize what this girl has been going through for this period of time? I'm sure there are others that have fallen into the same thing.
I don't have the answer. I think what we're looking for here is to really review our parole system and perhaps, as someone mentioned to me, maybe it needs to be more professional than what we have to guarantee that we don't let somebody out that shouldn't have been let out, such as this particular individual.
Thank you. If you have any questions and I would like you take me up on the opportunity for my constituent to meet with you. I think you would be very enlightened and if you want to talk to me privately about it, I'd be happy to do so.
REP. DYSON: Representative Lawlor has a question.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Representative Adinolfi. I'm glad you brought it up because I'm very familiar with this case, actually. And it is an example of not just a tremendous failure on the part of the system, but in my opinion, a violation of the rules that have been clearly established by this Legislature. For example, in 1994, this Legislature said violent offenders and this guy would qualify under any definition of violent, have to serve 85% of the sentence. He didn't get sentenced for twenty years. He got sentenced for twenty-five years, actually in 1987. And the Board of Parole voted twice to release this guy.
As you point out, base on a recommendation, but the members who voted on that should have known better. In fact, there was a letter in the file from the prosecutor involved in the case and I won't read the whole thing, but her name is Mary Galvin. For those of you who know her, she's one of the most aggressive prosecutors in the State and has one of the highest success records. And it's addressed to the Board of Parole during the first hearing and it starts up as saying, "Mr. Gunther is a serious sexual predator whose convicted of two Class B Felonies. These were both stranger situations. In other words, he raped people he didn't know where he broke into women's homes. And I cannot conceive a more violent offender less deserving of parole consideration than this offender."
And notwithstanding that letter from the actual prosecutor involved, notwithstanding his long track record of abuse, he was released long before he served 85% and why that happened and how it happened, I can't begin to understand. All I do know is that in each of the hearings where he was voted the parole, two of the three persons involved were not full-time Parole Board members. They are, in effect, amateurs. They don't know what they're doing. They made a tremendous mistake here. They disregarded the advice from people who actually knew what the real story was, and it's for that reason the bill before us recommends that we switch to a full-time Parole Board, people who do know what they're doing. They will appreciate the advice and directives they get from the people who are actually familiar with these offenders on the basis of public safety.
And that's why we've been trying to make this distinction between violent offenders and non-violent offenders.
One-third of the people in our prison system are categorized as violent. And two-thirds aren't. This guy was categorized as violent and he should have done the 85% at an absolute minimum. This is exactly the kind of guy that we're trying to keep in prison for their full sentence and it's just as simple as that and I'm glad you point it out.
REP. ADINOLFI: Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Are there any comments or questions? Thank you, Representative Adinolfi.
Barbara Fair, Philip Cloutier, Maureen Price, Sue Casanova, Rainey Randolf, Ed Davies, James Bookwalter, Michael Askew, Robert Rooks, Margaret Levy, Peter Gwynne, Suzette Benn.
Okay, now I'm on the second page.
BARBARA FAIR: Because we've been here so long, we just wanted to come up together and read some of the -- the other two are going to read --
REP. DYSON: Who do you have, Barbara?
BARBARA FAIR: People who left.
REP. DYSON: I'm sorry, but who are the two people? I'm trying to check off the list.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I'm not on that list.
REP. DYSON: You're not on the list?
BARBARA FAIR: The people --
REP. DYSON: Oh, okay. What about yourself?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Sally Joslin.
REP. DYSON: Oh, Sally.
BARBARA FAIR: Yes, Sally had to leave and Barbara.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: And this is for Mara Miller - Barbara Miller.
REP. DYSON: Go right ahead.
BARBARA FAIR: Okay.
REP. DYSON: Sorry, okay.
BARBARA FAIR: Do you want to go first?
AUTUMN LEONARD: Okay. My name is Autumn Leonard. I didn't sign up to speak here today. I had no intention. I just came in as an observer. However, as someone who waited for a very long time to read this to you had to go home.
Since it's a public hearing and I've been sitting here for so long, as have many of you, I just think the people who don't get paid to be here should get to read first in the future. That's my recommendation. So this is from Mara Miller.
My name is Mara Miller. I'm a founder of the recently formed Connecticut Chapter of the CURE, a national grassroots advocacy group for prisoners and their families. Also, my husband is currently incarcerated in the Connecticut state system.
There is one word that I read again and again in the letters that I receive from my husband and also in the letters from the other Connecticut state prisoners who write to me at Connecticut CURE. The word describes their overall sense of failure, doom, and hopelessness. The word, "uselessness". Useless human beings, useless individuals with no involvement in their present and certainly no hope for their future.
One of the intended purposes of incarceration is to take people who have made the mistake and help them learn a better way. In theory, they pay a price for their offense, are given assistance while inside, and after a while, are set free to move back into a lawful existence.
However, due to current overcrowding, our (inaudible) state correction system is not about correction or rehabilitation. It is a warehouse for people. We keep squeezing more and more people into this warehouse and taking away all the programs that will help them get out and keep out. Few are receiving the counseling and training to develop the life skills they will need to succeed on the outside. Spaces in substance abuse classes are few and the waiting lists are long. Jobs are scarce. The large numbers of prisoners with little to do creates dangerous conditions, both for the DOC employees and the prisoners.
Prisoners who are finishing up longer sentences are being released with only minimal assistance with re-entry into society. Once on the outside, they often find little support from overworked Parole and Probation officers. Many have difficulty finding anyone to hire them. They are punished again and again, long after their state mandated sentence is finish.
Now the State plans to alleviate overcrowding by shipping up to 2,000 more prisoners out-of-state. This measure is justified as unnecessary, albeit a short term solution. But what kind of solution is it if it merely shuffles prisoners to another location and if it never addresses the root causes of their offenses nor offering the rehabilitative services to correct the situation? No, we don't need to feed the prison system and the economy of another state. We need real reform here in Connecticut and we need it now.
Connecticut CURE supports the proposed prison reform package. In particular, we support the reform of parole and probation systems, including release of Level One prisoners once they have been voted to Parole and the release of those back in prison merely for a technical violation such as a missed meeting.
We support the establishment of an alternative program such as a series of fines for technical parole violators in lieu of a return to prison.
We also support the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenses. The money saved from these measures alone would provide ample savings so that no prisoners would have to be moved out-of-state, away from their families. We would also be able to put money back into alternative incarceration and community placement programs.
Please do not let the fear of being soft on crime deter you from passing this legislation. We all want to protect society from violent offenders. These proposed reforms apply to non-violent offenders who make up over 80% of our prison population.
We should be putting our corrections dollars into keeping them as dangerous criminals inside. Our tough on crime, lock them up society has done nothing to decrease recidivism. On the other hand, community placement, alternative incarceration programs and educational/job re-entry programs have shown significantly better results and they are much less expensive.
We have a had a prison overcrowding situation for years now and yet the only prison reform legislation we have been able to pass is an emergency measure to send prisoners out-of-state.
As a taxpaying and law abiding citizen of Connecticut, I am amazed and appalled that we have even to debate these issues. I believe that no person, no matter how serious his or her crime, is ever useless. Please pass this prison reform package now so that we can help our prisoners learn to live lawful and yes, useful lives in our society.
Thank you, Mara Miller, founding member, CURE Connecticut Chapter and for the record again, my name is Autumn Leonard.
REP. DYSON: Thank you.
JANIE DEFLORIO: Hi, my name is Janie DeFlorio and I'm reading this testimony to the committee for Sally Joslin.
Earlier this month, we sent a letter on behalf of People Against Injustice in New Haven to all State Representatives and Senators protesting out-of-state prison transfers and supporting the pending legislation to eliminate prison overcrowding. It is not clear that DOC officials and certain politicians really want to reduce the prison population. Yes, they want to eliminate the dangerous situation of overcrowding and they also want taxpayers to believe that they are saving money while sending millions of taxpayer dollars to other states.
If all they do is shift thousands of prisoners out-of-state, they will be doing nothing about cutting down the number of people in prison.
Connecticut needs to look at why too many of its people are incarcerated and who is being incarcerated and the terrible affects this has on certain communities in our State. Connecticut needs to spend its money wisely to eliminate the conditions that cause incarceration.
There are at least categories of prisoners that could be removed from our prison now, eligible non-violent offenders, drug treatment, technical violators or probation and parole, prisoners already granted Parole, prisoners who could reach Parole eligibility and (inaudible), the mentally ill, and the Level Ones ready for supervision in the community.
Others should never get to prison in the first place. If changes are made regarding mandatory sentencing, the inflated sentences for possession of Crack as compared to powder Cocaine and sending first and second time drug possessors directly to treatment, and another unnecessary cause of prison overcrowding, one which hasn't even been looked at yet is the outrageous bail given to poor defendants not yet convicted of anything. The legislation currently on the table would reduce the prison population so significantly that out-of-state transfers would not even be an issue. The Legislature put the cart before the horse by voting in the regular session to allow a huge increase in the out-of-state transfers when they should have first allowed all these excellent measures for reducing the prison population to work.
Fortunately, there is still a chance to vote on all of these measures and those legislators who understand them need to educate the others. These are common sense changes that have nothing to do with being soft on crime and endangering public safety.
Representative Lawlor, Representative Dyson, and all the others who have worked hard to craft this legislation know what they are doing. If DOC, the Governor, and other legislators want to show that they care about reducing the prison population and saving taxpayer money, they will support all of these bills.
Sally Joslin, People Against Injustice from New Haven.
REP. DYSON: Thank you. Barbara.
BARBARA FAIR: Good evening, members of the Judiciary, Public Safety and Appropriations Committees. My name is Barbara Fair and I'm the mother of four incarcerated sons and a grandmother of two children I brought here today, but they had to leave. They wanted to come today to talk about their Dads and what incarceration and how it has impacted their lives. One of their Dads is in Virginia so she wanted to talk about that feels to have him so far away.
But if I may, I would like to at least read their testimony because I promised them I would because they were disappointed.
One of them -- this is the little girl whose Dad is in Virginia. Good afternoon. My name is Asada Tucker ---
(inaudible-Tape switched from side 4B to side 5A - some testimony not recorded)
BARBARA FAIR: --- she thinks it's school. "He went to school when I was three years old. My Daddy has missed two of my birthday parties and my first day of school.
I miss him so much because he is in Virginia. We don't talk on the phone that much because Mom can't pay the bill. Mommy says that Daddy is coming home in April and I hope he never has to leave home again."
The other one is from another one of my grandchildren. "Good afternoon. My name is (inaudible) Tucker and I'm five years old. Thank you for letting me talk about my Dad. He went to prison when I was only three months old. Mommy has pictures of him holding me when I was a little baby. She told me he had to go away because he had did a bad thing because he couldn't find a job and needed money to help take care of us.
My Daddy has missed all my birthday parties and my first day of school. I have missed out on so much fun with my Dad because he has been away for so long. My Mom takes me to see him because she doesn't want me to forget who he is. He was a good person. I know that he loves me because he tells me so all the time. We can't talk on the phone that much because Mom can't pay the bill either. Mommy said that Daddy's coming home in December and I hope he never has to leave home again.
If you can do anything to help my Dad and other good fathers stay out of prison, a lot of kids would be happy."
Since I'm beginning my testimony, most of what I wanted to say is before we can address any of these issues of prison reform, we have to address the issue of the prison industrial complex because the reality is as long as having people locked away is profitable, and this recession proved kind of a venture for people to get into, we're never going to -- people are always going to be opposed to any kind of reform that says let's let some of these people out of prison.
When we have 1,500 people that are on the Level One, those people should be out -- they shouldn't be in prison because they're no longer a risk. And to say that they're in there because we don't have halfway houses to put them in, I can't understand if they're not a public risk, they served all their time, and just because you don't have a halfway bed house for them to go to, why can't they just be transitioned home? Because sometimes the halfway houses cause them to stay in prison even longer.
For instance, my son who is in Virginia, he is on Level One. He's in Virginia. He's been there over a year. He's not one of those 250 that says that I want to stay here. He's one of those 250 who have been begging to come back home because it hurts him not seeing his kids.
It hurts him that he can't even talk to his kids that much because it costs over $10 every time he has to call. So he's not one of those people that wants to stay in Virginia and I don't understand why he would even be there in the first place. He's already been voted to Parole. His parole date is April. Why is he still in prison? The Commissioner says that she would like to see people -- she said that she has people -- she has people in Virginia who has less than six to nine months -- well, that's when she would like to see them come back within six to nine months of their time for release. Well, my son's in that category, but he's still not back here. So, I don't know, I sat here today and I listened to a lot of the stuff that was being said and it just really -- I said, I don't really even want to talk about my speech anymore. I just want to talk about some of the stuff that I heard said here and I have to go along with the gentlemen that were here from the union. I just wonder, do some of these people -- how do they sit here and say things and I'm assuming they're testifying under oath, and sit here and say things that are so blatantly untrue.
And so are the kinds of things that -- I want to address some of those things today.
But when we talk about sending people to Virginia, that was a short term solution. Well, that's an issue that was years ago. And we've sent the 500 to last year the Governor wanted 1,000, then we went to 2,000. Now we have 2,500. Is that a short term solution? That sounds like some kind of a plan that we intend to continue going up and up until we have what, 5,000 people out-of-state?
My fear is that if we have all these people in prison that don't belong there, like the 20% that are mentally ill, and the 1,500 that are Level One offenders who could really be out in the street and I have some more too. And the 4,000 that are in there for pretrial as of July 1, 2002, over 4,000 are there for pretrial.
We put -- our organization, People Against Injustice, put forth a resolution that was granted on the local level and we brought it in, introduced it on the state level. Now, we've seen the bail resolution that we introduced is completely changed. We've seen the results of it. Now it's all about bail and bondsmen. That was not our intention. Our intention was to have a study that was going to show the disparity between whose sitting in jail waiting for bail and the disparity of the people who get charged with bail when they go to court.
And so, all of that seems to be taken out of the resolution. So, we're not really addressing the problems that our organization really wants people to do. We want them to look at the disparity and whose in prison and why they're there and whose has the high bail and why they can't get into some of these jail interview, re-interview programs that I hear people talking about because I don't know of anybody who went through that program.
And you talk about the alternative to incarceration. Most of the people I know didn't get alternative incarceration. They went to jail. They either sat in there because they couldn't afford the bail or they got up the money to get out of jail. I don't know anything about all these programs. It just makes me wonder whose in them.
Now, there are a number of things. You have all these people in these alternative incarcerations and transitional supervision, but when I look at the prisons and I see they're all there, I'm saying okay, then whose in these other programs? Because it's certainly not us and that makes it clear to me.
When we talk about soft on crime because that's the same old little cliché that I'm so sick of hearing. When people want to look at what's wrong with this system and that's to correct it. Soft on crime is to me is when we have somebody that steals thousands and probably millions of dollars from the city and they get convicted and they get to choose when they go to prison. That's soft on crime. Soft on crime is when you have NCI, who we know is very, very corrupt, providing services for the agencies here only because they're willing to give the State of Connecticut a kickback. That's soft on crime. Soft on crime is when we have a Governor who has been indicted many times for many offenses and he's still running our government. That's soft on crime.
And when we have sex offenders who I recently heard on the t.v. last night who got a seven year sentence for an armed sexual assault and now he's back out here and has done sexual assault to somebody else. That's soft on crime. I say soft on crime because my son sold drugs to somebody, not a child, an adult who wanted it and he got six years to stay in prison. This person, an armed sexual assault got one year more than my son did. That's soft on crime.
So, what you are planning on doing, don't let anybody try to run that over you, what you're trying to do, Representative Dyson, and Representative Lawlor and all of you people of good conscience is trying to change a system that's very, very sick and it's about a system of profiting on the backs of the poorest people in our -- and not only in our community, but all over this country.
And I welcome any kind of changes that you can come up with and I applaud both of you for going up against so much opposition from those people who are looking at the investments that we have in prison and not looking at the emotional toll that it's doing having moms and dads and sisters and brothers all locked away and having my granddaughters crying and grandsons crying at night. That was only two of them grandkids that are suffering because their Dad is in jail. I get to see that emotional toll. Nobody wants to talk about that. They just want to talk about look how much we're going to lose.
You passed a bill, I think it was in 2002 about NCI and you said DOC had one year to come up with a pilot plan. I haven't heard of anything yet. Maybe they did it, I haven't heard anything about it yet.
But I do believe after hearing there was great opposition from Marc Ryan because he said okay now, we've made $6.5 million off these people annually. Where are we going to get the money if we stop NCI from being a provider and making all this money? When there was a complaint from the Department of Technology who said we are minding this revenue to provide computer systems, e-mail and all of this stuff for the State of Connecticut and all the employees, including judicial and all that stuff. So, of course, all this money is going to be lost if we do the right thing. You're going to have a whole lot more opposition than you do now.
But I think of all things, the bottom line, I think the (inaudible) thing that we're doing is sending people out-of-state and making people suffer and as has been brought here today, it's not the worse of the worst. It's not the gang members. It's not the hard core people who are going down there. It's the people who have no problems at all who could be here. They're serving their time. They could be here with their kids. My son, if he was in Connecticut, and if there was a halfway house open, he is eligible. He served his time. He could be in a halfway house right now visiting his kids at some parts of the day, transitioning back home. But instead, he's way down in Virginia and can't even talk to them or see them. That's the damage that we need to start thinking about when we're doing it to kids because that's going to be another generation of kids in pain and they're going to turn to drugs to handle their pain too and we could stop all of that now.
REP. DYSON: Any questions? If not, thank you very much.
BARBARA FAIR: Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Next, Philip Coultier. Philip. Philip. Maureen.
MAUREEN PRICE: I'm here.
REP. DYSON: Okay. Sue Casanova. And I assume a group is going to come up? Okay. Right after Maureen.
MAUREEN PRICE: I hate to follow her. That was passionate.
Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to be here today and in an effort to be flexible, I've changed my statement from good afternoon to good evening.
My name is Maureen Price and I'm the Executive Director of Community Partners in Action, formerly known as the Connecticut Prison Association, which is an organization that has been around for 128 years.
We work with offenders providing a myriad of services for the criminal justice population.
I'm here today as I was at a similar hearing on April 3rd of this year on behalf of the (inaudible) community justice providers of the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits.
Those of us who work with offenders in the community have long been concerned with Connecticut's rapidly growing prison population. For years we have come to the LOB and testified in favor of expanding treatment programs and alternatives to incarceration. Equally as important is restructuring sentencing laws that currently maximize incarceration periods without significantly impacting the recidivism rates.
I strongly feel that this time it can be different and important changes to the criminal justice system can be made. I'm encouraged by the bipartisan and public support this issue is receiving.
Recommendations being made today that will work include the reducing the percentage of time served for a population that is predominantly non-violent; requiring more drug offenders to be diverted to treated; eliminating the sentencing disparity between Crack and powder Cocaine; making important changes to the Boards of Parole and Pardons to allow them to more effectively move offenders to community supervision.
These recommendations will result in savings over time. It is strongly recommended that a percentage of these savings be invested in expanding and developing programs that address, in a comprehensive manner, these issues of poverty, behavioral health, education, family dysfunction, and the major predictors of criminality and recidivism.
I listened to the testimony today and I hope this is not moot, but it continues to be important for CAM and many of the nonprofit providers that we are concerned about the out-of-state prison beds. Connecticut is spending millions of dollars each year boosting the economy of other states while our community programs have been cut. The most recent example is a 10% rescission to CSSD and DOC funded programs last November. Most notable, DOC was forced to close (inaudible) halfway house and treatment beds for a total of 685 beds bringing the number of beds available to its lowest number since 1999.
As was stated by several people today, there are 1,500 low risk inmates appropriate for community placement incarcerated right now. Many more than a few years ago. DOC recently did a survey of community providers and determined that 294 community beds could be opened in the very near future in existing programs and properties.
These beds offer much more and cost less than a prison bed. I do want to point out the Commissioner's comparison with the cost per year that in many instances these beds have a rotation of three or four individuals during the year's time.
These beds come with behavioral health treatment, employment, and educational services, counseling, reintegration services, and other supports that make for a successful transition to the community. Restoring recently cut services and continued investment in community programming for offenders will reduce overcrowding and eliminate the need for out-of-state prison beds.
During my seventeen years in criminal justice, I have witnessed the revolving door, our offenders coming in out of the system. The reality is that many -- 7% of those who are incarcerated will return to the community. For this reason and all those previously mentioned, nonprofit community providers, serving offenders, request that you consider appointment of an experienced provided to the Alternative to Incarceration Advisory Committee established in the budget implementer bill H.B. 6806.
As a community that values public safety, we have to make a commitment to effective change to impact recidivism.
And I just want to close and thank you, the leaders, for giving us this opportunity today because we know it's been a long journey and we appreciate it.
REP. DYSON: Thank you. Do you have a copy of that that I can get, your testimony? I know you probably passed it, but I would have to search. Let me show you. See, this is the testimony we have. So I'm trying to avoid searching through to find it.
MAUREEN PRICE: Nora's going to give you one.
REP. DYSON: Okay, thanks. Okay, next is Sue Casanova, Board of Parole.
REP. LAWLOR: Good evening, guys.
SUE CASANOVA: Good evening.
REP. LAWLOR: Please go ahead.
SUE CASANOVA: First and foremost, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Sue Casanova. I've been a parole officer for seventeen years. I have been an officer both with the Department of Correction and the Board of Parole since 1985. Prior to this great achievement, I was employed as a substance abuse counselor for an agency in the Department of Correction called Project Fire. I have learned a Bachelor's Degree in Human Service with a minor in counseling and I am a certified drug and alcohol counselor.
Until recently, I've supervised the inner-city of Hartford caseload. In the past few months, I've been trying to develop a new form of supervision in the community. Presently, my caseload consists of all halfway house parolees, minimum supervision parolees, and quarterly supervision parolees for the inner-city of Hartford.
Many years ago I made a decision to become a Parole Officer, not for the power and not for the prestige. I made this decision because I felt there was so much red tape involving assisting a parolee to obtain the appropriate addiction treatment, vocational needs, halfway house placement, employment that he or she needed out in the community.
Once I was in Parole, many changes took place. SHR became a household name, not only in my house, but also in many citizens' homes around Connecticut. Parole was abolished and SHR took over. I must admit, in the beginning, we, the parole officers were releasing inmates with the care, concern, and plan that we initially planned for parolees. Then the prison overcrowding became an issue. The system was overwhelmed, not enough staff to do the job, not enough beds to house the inmates.
The releasing authorities reduced the releasing criteria to reduce the overcrowding issue, but what people didn't realize is what the overcrowding issues did to us as parole officers and our supervision. We became the sole release mechanism for the Department of Correction. We, the parole officers, were overwhelmed. Our caseload numbers were from anywhere from 100 to 180 per month being supervised in the community. We were supervising people and had difficult remembering the inmate's name. Our safety became a factor, our mission was to get them out.
This was making many administrators relieved, but the burden of supervising these needy people became overwhelming and impossible. Community agencies were overwhelmed because the money was not there for they could expand their staff to accommodate the number of SHR inmates. Parole officers were under the gun nonstop. We became tired and frustrated. The communities were gang and crime infested and it seemed that we were contributing to the problem.
SHR was looking as it was a revolving door for criminals to continue breaking the law in Connecticut. We, the parole officers and the legislators knew this had to change. Consequently, the parole officers, in conjunction with the Legislative Review Board, and the union, starting researching the possibilities of forming our own agency, the Board of Parole. The idea was that the Department of Correction was an expert in housing inmates and Parole was an expert in community supervision.
In 1993, the Legislative Program Review report questioned the conflict of interest concerning incarceration and community supervision. This study enabled us, the parole officers, and the Legislature, to focus on community supervision needs and that we did.
Since 1994, we have accomplished many goals. Our supervision model has changed and is considered one of the best in the country. Parolees are held accountable for their actions. Parolees are required to maintain employment, attend and participate in drug addiction treatment, mental health, sex offender treatment. We have a special sex offender unit. And any other modality of counseling the board members and parole officers thinks the parolee needs.
These policies hold the parolees accountable for their actions and it gives them a positive growth incentive to remain in the community as productive citizens.
A victim advocacy unit and fugitive team was also created. We have joined together with all law enforcement and community agencies and expanded upon the parolee agency policies. We assist law enforcement agencies and have a low rate of fugitives in the community.
Yes, there are many positive contributions we, as parole officers, have made in the community. We are a special group of people that are able to wear many hats. We think on our feet and are prepared for anything that is tossed at us. We have been trained in interpersonal skills, family issues, field apprehensions, and our equipment issues have greatly improved. We are concerned about our caseload numbers. They are on the rise. Some officers have 100 cases, that's too many. Remembering that quality versus quantity, we would like to see quality for the goodness of humanity and our professional integrity.
One must remember, you cannot alleviate one problem and over-burden another system, it just doesn't work.
We, the professional parole officers, have built a foundation for building bridges back to the community modality. We, the parole officers, are proud of what we have achieved in the community and we are concerned of the Department of Corrections pre-1993 supervision model. We believe we can work as a team to achieve the same goals, but we hope to keep the integrity, respect, and professionalism of our agency, both in the community, as well as behind the walls of the correction system.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Officer Casanova. Are there any -- do you guys want to say something?
SUE CASANOVA: I'm sorry, I forgot to introduce them. This is Rick Anderson. And John Kelly.
REP. LAWLOR: Well, if I could just ask you, I know one of the big changes that is part of the implementer bill that we adopted in August is to move what had been an independent parole board inside now the Department of Corrections and I know that the process is underway. And I was just wondering, as far as you can tell from your vantage point, have there been any complications? I mean, what I gather is there's a little bit of confusion of whose got responsibility for what as the shift is taking place. I mean, do you see that? If so, anything you want to bring to our attention?
SUE CASANOVA: Well, to be quite frank with you, I'm not -- I'm a little confused, yes. I'm not quite sure whose our boss. The other issues I'm concerned with is we deal with CSSD with the contracts with the halfway houses. Do I continue --
REP. LAWLOR: CSSD? That's the judicial branch --
SUE CASANOVA: That's correct. They are pretty much the ones that do the halfway houses -- you know, I make the referrals to them and they, in turn, send them to our contracted halfway houses and our contracted halfway houses is part of the Corrections contract, you know. So there are a lot of questions that we haven't had answered. It's kind of confusing, it's a little frustrating and we would like to remain an agency with a lot of integrity and we would like to continue doing good in the community. And it's a major concern of ours.
REP. LAWLOR: Now, just so there's no confusion. You guys are in the field officers. You're not involved in the decisions of who gets out on parole and who doesn't, right?
SUE CASANOVA: That's correct. We're all Parole Officers in the field.
REP. LAWLOR: Because as you heard earlier, there's some controversy about some of the specific decisions the Parole Board has made. Do you have any contact with the members of the Parole Board who actually sit in on these hearings?
SUE CASANOVA: No.
JOHN KELLY: No, as field officers, we don't.
SUE CASANOVA: No, we don't sit in on the hearings.
JOHN KELLY: No. Initially there was one chairman at one point that had required field officers to attend hearings for whatever reason, although we were chastised and reprimanded for offering our opinions.
REP. LAWLOR: By whom?
JOHN KELLY: By the chairman at the time, not the current chairman.
REP. LAWLOR: I've got you, okay.
JOHN KELLY: So it was kind of bizarre. For nine years we've been doing this job and we've been doing it pretty good and that's why we wanted to come here today.
Our administration, for some reason, did not show up in April. We were extremely disappointed in them after them taking an oath that they would uphold the values and the ethics of this job. And for them not to show up back in April was an embarrassment for us as officers. So tonight, we sat here all day, we wanted to be heard and quite frankly, we're doing the job, we're building bridges back to the community. We're working hard, but we cannot do this job with an over-burdened caseload. We're in charge of supervising people out in the street. We're also in charge of getting those that are ready to come out to come out.
So, at any given month, we're running one hundred cases. And the ones that are on the caseload to the ones that need to come out, to the ones that are transferring off their sentence. And it's a great job. We love our job, don't get me wrong, but it could be chewed up like SHR did back in the late 80's and the early 90's and hence, the reason for the program review in 1993 and hence, the reason for us to be separated. I think we've done a phenomenal job with the supervision out here and we're saying let us keep doing it and let us keep doing it with the economy that we've had. I think Ms. Lantz would be fine and she's not going to jeopardize that in any way, but you've heard her say today that she just doesn't know the job. She's taken over an agency that she does not know. And for that, we are concerned.
REP. LAWLOR: And I think one of the concerns in the past has been these decisions on who to release and when. These are complicated decisions and I think it was always intended that the people who do the field supervision would have a lot of input, at least in coming up with appropriate rules for supervision and whose a good risk, whose not a good risk and I know that on the staff level, a lot of time has been invested in doing these risk assessment mechanisms and things like that and apparently, for a variety of reasons, it's never gotten up and running. And people -- I guess there's a new -- some sort of data system that's not quite ready to go yet? Identifying case notes or something like that.
JOHN KELLY: The agency spent an awful lot of money in case notes and it's a unique system. I believe we mirrored it from the State of Georgia and tweaked it for our own state needs. We've invested an awful lot of money and apparently there are some major snafus with the program. Yet, our supervisors are having us continue to move on with this system with no commitment from the Department of Correction.
And so again, it adds to our confusion and it adds to our work level. What do you want us to do, supervise them or load them into a computer?
REP. LAWLOR: But up until now, I guess all of this information that the Parole Board uses has been handwritten notes as opposed to a sort of centralized system where you can keep track of what's going on. Is that right?
JOHN KELLY: There are some very strong points to the system with the case notes and all of that information is generated from the Department of Correction's master file.
RICK ANDERSON: By a Parole Officer assigned to a specific institution. If that Parole Officer is still generating that paper, it's not into the computer system, the paper is coming out to the field. So the field officers, who are entering that right now, can combine that with 100 people on your caseload. It's very taxing at the moment.
REP. LAWLOR: Is that the typical caseload now, 100 parolees?
SUE CASANOVA: It seems to be lately.
JOHN KELLY: It seems to be, I think, in New Haven where I'm out of, I think the average caseload is 80.
REP. LAWLOR: I think there's a statute that says the limit is 75, if I'm not mistaken.
JOHN KELLY: Well, we're concerned about when we go through this reform and what we're doing here tonight, that needs to be paid attention to. I mean, it's tough to put a number on it and be held to the number, I understand that. But at the same token, you can't overburden one's system and in a very important part of the community system. We work hand-in-hand with the police officers in New Haven and Hartford and when these officers do their field interviews of guys hanging out on the corner, that they want to move them off the corner, they know whose on parole and the word parole and parole supervision carries an awful lot of weight when the officer says, "I'm going to call your parole officer."
It does. I've sat with a Lieutenant of the New Haven Police Department last week and he said, you know, it's just the mention of parole and he didn't want no problems, he was extremely polite and the individual -- so, where probation has been extremely overburdened with their case numbers and other things. There's that violation of parole that carries an awful lot of weight with these guys and for the most part, it does help in keeping the recidivism down and the violations down.
REP. LAWLOR: And do you really view that as your goal, as your mission as officers to successfully integrate people back into the community, get them into work, and employment and housing and all this kind of stuff? Is that what it's all about, really?
SUE CASANOVA: Absolutely.
JOHN KELLY: Absolutely.
SUE CASANOVA: That's what it's always been about.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay, any other questions from members of the committee? Representative McMahon.
REP. MCMAHON: Yeah, I was just wondering. I think I'm getting a distinction between a parole officer and a probation officer. The probation officer takes over after you've brought them back into the community and gotten them set up or?
JOHN KELLY: If I can clarify.
REP. MCMAHON: Oh, please do.
JOHN KELLY: Probation is a sentence. These individuals are sentenced to probation or to a period of incarceration with probation to follow. Parole is a discretionary decision by a panel of individuals serving their time incarcerated via a guideline system of violent to non-violent offenders. I think the current law is 50% to 85% and based on their behavior, their past criminal record, many, many variables, mental health issues, what have you, it's the panel that makes the decision whether they're to be released onto parole.
RICK ANDERSON: Although there is a mechanism in the statutes where special parole, which we currently quite a few parolees who are on that, that the judge, instead of a probation term, can sentence them onto a special parole, be it two years, five years, ten years of special parole. So when their sentence is done with the Department of Correction, they're automatically onto parole supervision.
REP. MCMAHON: Okay, thank you.
RICK ANDERSON: For that period.
REP. MCMAHON: Thank you very much.
REP. LAWLOR: Any further questions? If not, thank you very much, guys. Thank you for waiting.
RICK ANDERSON: Thank you very much.
JOHN KELLY: Thank you.
SUE CASANOVA: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Next is Rainey Randolf and Ed Davies. Let me just get a sense as these two gentlemen come up, to get a sense of whose still here.
Is Jim Bookwalter still here? Okay. Michael Askew. Robert Rooks. Margaret Levy is here. Peter Gwynne. Is Peter Gwynne here? Suzette Benn. Suzette's here, okay. Angela Shenk. Is Angela here? Victor Feliciano. Alan Szumkowski. John Shea. Richard Anderson already went, I think. Barbara Mara. Is Barbara still here? Father Lou Paturzzo. Kathy Osten. Kathy is still here, yeah. Vanessa Burns. She's over there hiding, okay. And then you guys. Alright, okay. And Jeanne Milstein is still here? She left, alright. And Todd Francini and Kathy Bequary are here? Okay. Got it.
RAINEY RANDOLF: Good evening. My name is Reverend Rainey Randolf and I am the Assistant Director for Isaiah 61.1, Incorporated over in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
I've worked for Isaiah House for sixteen years as a residential work release -- providing residential work release services for men coming out of state prisons.
I currently oversee our two men programs. I'm also an Assistant Pastor of our church in Bridgeport and I have provided volunteer religious services at the Bridgeport Correctional Center since 1985 under the supervision of Reverend Dr. James R. Cook and the C.C. Cook Ministry. I am also an ex-offender. I was released from prison in 1984 after serving 4-1/2 years. I was one of the early residents of Isaiah House. After I graduated from Isaiah House, I later returned as a volunteer bible study teacher and coordinator. So, my working with ex-offenders is more than a career to me. It's my calling and my ministry.
I know how difficult it is to be released from prison with nothing but anxiety and not knowing just where I'm going to go.
I know what it is for employers to be unwilling or reluctant to give an ex-offender a chance to prove him or herself. I also know how difficult it is to obtain the proper identification to do the things that you need to do to be successful.
And I also know how hard it is to secure a legitimate place to stay, but today I thank God for Isaiah House who helped me and hundreds of other men who were released from prison to meet these challenges.
I say to you today warehousing offenders in the prison system is not the answer to fighting crime. Men and women, after serving their time, they actually need sound support as they adjust to freedom. Without education, job training, and supervision and proper guidance, it's all too easy for them to fall back into a system that never seems to have enough beds or resources.
I think that we need to dedicate ourselves to breaking that cycle and that is why I ask you today to support the act concerning the prison overcrowding. I think it's very, very important.
I humbly submit to you today that rehabilitation is no myth. I've lived it and I've seen it work in the lives of our clients at the halfway house.
I thank you for your time and for your attention.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Did you want to say something?
RAINEY RANDOLF: I'm here for any questions.
REP. LAWLOR: Do you have a statement, Ed?
ED DAVIES: Sure, I'll go ahead. In the interest of time, I've submitted written testimony and I won't go over that, but I would like to make a few comments.
My name is Ed Davies. I'm the Executive Director of Isaiah 61.1, Incorporated in Bridgeport where Rainey works along side me. And I've been there for three years. I'm also a twenty year veteran in the Department of Correction. I served as correction officer, as a parole officer, and eventually as Warden in three different facilities in Cheshire, Enfield, and in Niantic and I retired from state service in 1996.
In twenty years of institutional corrections, it's easy to get kind of a jaundice look at the system because prisons are not like high schools, there's no reunions, nobody comes back to tell you how well they're doing. When you see somebody come back, it's because they've failed and they're not doing well.
My experience with this agency and to some degree, when I worked in the community as a parole officer, gave me the hope, though, to realize that in fact the men and women who come to our prison system can and do change. It's a core belief in our agency that men and women don't go voluntarily to prison or enter a life of crime voluntarily. It's not something that they choose to do or if they do choose to do it, they regret that decision pretty early on. But they need tools and they need skills to break out of that and that's what they get at our halfway houses.
We operate three halfway houses for the Department of Correction. Each is a small program. We have fourteen beds in each of our houses. Two are for men, one is for women. I can address some of the questions that were raised earlier about the cost of halfway house beds sometimes being a little higher and part of that is an economy of scale and the fact that we have to have one person on duty all the time with our fourteen beds, whereas a Level Two correctional facility might have one correction officer with 100 inmates in a housing unit. So some of our personnel costs run pretty high, but we're very efficient and our clients get very intensive case management. They're worked one-on-one by our staff and I'm very proud of our staff. Fifty percent of our staff were ex-offenders, most of whom have gone through our programs. It's an agency that truly believes in what we do and we benefit greatly from our staff who are role models and who can show our current clients that change is not only possible, it's real and it's happened in front of them.
I support most of the legislation that's before you in this particular working draft on prison overcrowding. I would like to see a greater emphasis on community release. I know we responded to the RFI from Commissioner Lantz and we'd be interested in adding beds to our agency. There are many agencies that have beds that are ready to open today if funding were available. We had asked that some of the funding currently scheduled to go out-of-state be diverted into community beds here in Connecticut where not only the employees, but the inmates become taxpaying, law abiding citizens.
And so I leave you with that. I certainly am willing to answer any questions you may have as is Rainey.
So, thank you for your time and your attention and we appreciate you staying here to this late hour.
REP. LAWLOR: Can I just ask you a question? We've heard some testimony earlier about the effects of the recent rescissions over the past year or two. How have those effected your agency, if at all? Do you have fewer beds up and running now than you did a year or so ago or slots or however you figure?
ED DAVIES: We, for the first time in the twenty year history of our agency, we had our budget cut. We lost 11% of our operating budget. Our Board of Directors made the decision that it was important to continue to offer our services to as many people as possible. And the only way we could save money by cutting beds would be to close an entire one of our houses because our programs are small and we couldn't take the one person that's on duty from midnight to eight and take them out of there and have the house self-supervised. That's not good corrections, that's not how it works.
So, with our budget cut, we increased the cost of some benefits to some employees. We laid off and had to reduce in position -- we laid off one full-time employee and several part-timers. We had another senior manager with our agency take a demotion and take over the operation of our halfway house. I went into a part-time position from full-time and we made some other cuts elsewhere, but to this point, we haven't had to forfeit any beds. But we're at the bone at this point. Any additional cuts or spending increases and we just met with our health insurance carrier yesterday and got bad news on that venue, would probably cause us to lose not just some beds -- I can't close four beds and save any money. We'd probably have to close a house if worse case scenario if that should come to pass.
REP. LAWLOR: And on the other hand, if funding were available, how -- when you say you could beds online tomorrow, I mean, how many do you think you could put up and running in the short term?
ED DAVIES: We -- our response to the Commissioner's RFI, had two proposals. Number one was we could have three beds for women almost immediately by moving our administrative offices out of the house that currently houses our women's program, Mary Magellan House. We would find administrative office space elsewhere and turn out administrative offices into housing for three, possibly four additional women. That's a pretty good percentage increase for us. It's a drop in the bucket when you look at the big numbers and 1,500 Level One inmates in correctional facilities looking for beds.
We've also entered into some tentative negotiations pending funding availability with the owner of a licensed boarding house in our neighborhood. Our programs are within a two block space on Clinton Avenue in Bridgeport. We have a licensed boarding house that used to be funded by DCF and lost its funding last year. It's currently operated just as a general boarding house in the community, but we've entered into some negotiations where we might be able to open and expand to an additional program there.
We're a fairly small agency and I would never want us to lose our strength by trying to get too big too fast, but we certainly could do more.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay, thanks. Other questions? If not, thank you very much.
ED DAVIES: Thank you very much.
REP. LAWLOR: Next is James Bookwalter.
JAMES BOOKWALTER: Honorable Chairmen and members of the Appropriations and Judiciary Committees, my name is James Bookwalter. I'm the Connecticut Correctional Ombudsman.
I'm here to speak in support of the provisions of LCO 8123 pertaining to parole eligibility. I believe these provisions will have a significant impact on prison overcrowding and on the likelihood of an offender making a successful adjustment to living in the community.
While I support the provisions, I believe they can be improved. I would like to recommend an amendment to Section 3, subsections (d) and (e). These sections require an inmate's mandatory release after service of 75% or 85% of his sentence provided that any of several factors are not present. These factors, in general, relate to an inmate's institutional performance, or to the existence or record of a pending criminal charge.
My objection is to the wording of the provisions, not to the ideas that are presented. I believe that the language of this subsection adversely limits the Commissioner's discretion to administer the department ---
(inaudible-tape switched from side 5A to side 5B - some testimony/dialogue not recorded)
JAMES BOOKWALTER: --- and the term "Class A Disciplinary Report" are classifications and terminology established at the Commissioner's discretion. Periodically, such statuses are renamed, reconfigured, or discontinued and other statuses aimed at somewhat different purposes are established as circumstances change.
For example, the security levels, security group, and current disciplinary status are nomenclature that was first adopted during the last decade. It is surfaceable now, but that may change. The incorporation of these specific terms in the statute would limit the Commissioner's ability to adopt different correctional practices in response to changing circumstances without undermining the operation of the statute.
To some extent, this cannot be avoided and still give recognition and weight to the Department management of the inmate, but I believe that the wording can be improved.
Secondly, the language that has been given is ambiguous. For example, with respect to the Level Five security status, does the provision mean that an inmate who has been assigned a Level Five status at any time during the service of his sentence has been given a Level Five status or does it mean that an inmate is disqualified only if he is Level Five at the time he becomes eligible under the 75 or 85 percent provision?
The phrase "has been given" is open to too much interpretation. I recommend that the phrasing "has been given" be changed.
Thirdly, under the law of State v. Milton, 26 Connecticut Appellate Reports 698, page 710, it says, "the wrap sheet in the defendant's file is sufficient to serve as a detainer." Milton's interpretation of a detainer requires Department officials to canvass each inmate's wrap sheet to determine if there are indisposed charged. Many charges on the wrap sheet are out-of-date because there is no systematic means for the wrap sheet to be updated. The system to report charges works well. The system to clear the record does not.
Charges are carried along unless the disposition is affirmatively recorded among the agencies that have access to the wrap sheet. Often when correctional officials contact a jurisdiction about an indisposed charge, especially an out-of-state jurisdiction, they will get no response and no action. The out-of-state jurisdiction has no motivation and no requirement to act because their interpretation of a detainer is different.
Consequently, the indisposed charge remains on the wrap sheet as a detainer under Connecticut law. Under the provisions of the proposed draft, persons so effected would not be eligible for release.
I recommend that the subsection pertaining to detainers be redrafted.
Finally, as a more general comment, these various correctional statuses referred to in the draft are not all established to state regulations. Some are established only by administrative directive.
In terms of governmental process, the draft codifies in the statutes, statuses that are simply the internal procedures of the Department. In my judgment, it is desirable that the Department adopt regulations pursuant to Chapter 54 that would increase the standing of statuses that place such an important part in the determination of an inmate's parole eligibility.
The wording that I propose for these two subsections are attached to my written testimony.
Again, I want to express my strong support for the changes in parole eligibility that are set out in the proposed regulation.
Thank you for your attention.
REP. DYSON: Thank you. Did you pass that testimony in?
JAMES BOOKWALTER: Yes, you have copies of it.
REP. DYSON: I have it. Okay. Thank you. Are there any comments or questions from members? If not, thank you very much.
JAMES BOOKWALTER: You're welcome.
REP. DYSON: Next is Michael Askew. Michael Askew. Is there a Norwalk thing going on here?
MICHAEL ASKEW: Good evening, Representative Dyson, Senator Harp, and Senator Genuario and the other distinguished members of this committee, both the Appropriations and Judiciary.
It's a really a privilege to be here and thank you for staying such late time to listen to our concerns and issues that I do suppose that you do have this written testimony, but I'm going to cut it short because a lot of things that I had mentioned and wanted to say have already been shared, but I will let you know just a little bit about myself and why I'm sitting here.
I represent the Connecticut Community For Addiction Recovery, which is a statewide advocacy organization and we promote recovery by putting a positive face on recovery and that there's too much stigma attached to persons addicted with drugs and alcohol that comes back into society that have really changed their lives and made a difference in their communities.
And for seventeen years, that disease really crippled my life tremendously. I had lost faith and hope and I believed some day that I would never be okay. I didn't think it was possible, but throughout my addiction I never entered a detoxification unit, I never entered a rehabilitation center, but I did enter numerous prison terms. And subsequently in 1989, I was sentenced to five years in prison. I served three years and was released to a transitional halfway house through DOC. For the first time in my life I was given an opportunity that I never had before and that was having a structured program instead of being released from prison.
That started my recovery and I've been clean from drugs and alcohol ever since.
But let me share with you that I strongly advocate for persons in recovery and support the need for more addiction recovery services rather than prison to anyone that is dealing with the disease of addiction like I did because I know there's hope and I know that a lot of people can become better citizens if they get the services that they need.
I have to be thankful for having had that opportunity myself because I always failed when I was released from prison. I can see it now, there was nothing in place to keep me in place and when I look at how we have avoided the ever increasing task of reducing the rate of incarceration, I think of the many ways that we can better handle certain offenders.
With persons having a continuous drug problem, shouldn't we look at how to provide treatment which is the sanest thing to do than just keep locking them up? And can't the judge impose a mandated sentence to have that person receive some type of recovery treatment service? Wouldn't that person be getting what they really need instead of prison?
Why do we not continue to fund drug courts in Connecticut? You don't have to answer that on the grounds that it may incriminate you, but do we feel that the persons that we are locking up for a mere technical violation, should cost the State $25,000 a year? If we provide more support to probation and parole departments, more people who are not at high risk to commit a serious crime, can be released or stay on the streets.
Certainly, I feel that there is a need to educate persons in prison before they're released, as well, unless they are released, there are referrals that link persons back to their communities with services that can help them stay in the community and be productive.
So, stop cutting funds that are necessary for survival, but support your union programs by investing in them. Take some DOC money and make it FOC money. Fund our community money.
I've been in recovery for about fourteen years and I finally have come to understand how some barriers that I've had I've overcome due to my perseverance and the challenges that I felt that I could overcome.
With some help, I was able to re-establish myself in my community. I am a community leader. I sit on three board of directors. I sit with the State Advisory Board to DMHAS, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and among other things, I really became a mentor to youths in my community throughout the CARE programs, as well, and other mentor programs such as the (inaudible) but I want to sit here and let you know that I still have that felony charge on my record. And I still, at times, know that it's been an hindrance for me to get to another level in my life.
So I do hope that there's an expedited pardon process that we can look at to help people like me overcome some obstacles that certainly will not discourage me today, but would have discouraged me ten, twelve years ago.
And I thank you for listening to me and through my travels that I've always been in the community realizing that every time I see someone that was in this situation I was in over fifteen, twenty years ago, I say to myself, but for the grace of God, there go I. And I thank God for what He's done for me and I thank the system for allowing me to have that one opportunity to go to a halfway house that I never had before. Had it not been for that, I don't know where I would end up or would have end up, but I thank God that I ended up to where I can start to reach back and ask someone else to help me help that next person that doesn't know that help's available.
Thank you for listening and for being attentive tonight.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Any comments or questions? If not, thank you very much.
Yes, Senator Genuario.
SEN. GENUARIO: Thanks for coming up, Michael.
REP. DYSON: You're a Norwalk person.
MICHAEL ASKEW: Yes.
SEN. GENUARIO: Thanks for sharing that and drive safely.
MICHAEL ASKEW: Thank you, sir.
REP. DYSON: Thank you. Next is Robert Rooks and then Margaret Levy. Margaret, are you here? Okay. Alright, then Peter Gwynne. Alright, go right ahead, Robert.
ROBERT ROOKS: To the honorable Harp, Dyson and Lawlor and to the members of the Appropriations and Judiciary Committees, thank you for holding this momentous occasion and thank you for still being here so late.
My name is Robert Rooks and I'm of the Better Way Foundation. The Better Way is a research and education organization dedicated to changing Connecticut's drug laws.
Two thousand and three has been a busy year for prison reform across the country. This year's headlines have read, "Historic Michigan, Smart on Crime - Sentencing Reform Saves Taxpayers $47 million." States grappling to control costs are looking to the Michigan reforms as a model. Texas passes treatment instead of incarceration bill into law for first time non-violent drug offenders. California saves $175 million by diverting non-violent offenders to community treatment facilities.
Justice Anthony Kennedy told the annual meeting of the American Bar Association on August 9th, "our resources are misspent, our punishments too severe, our sentences too long." He goes onto say, "I accept neither the necessity nor the wisdom of federal mandatory minimum sentences. In all too many cases", he says, "mandatory minimum sentences are unjust."
Today I say to you there is no greater time than now to be smart on crime. The elimination of mandatory minimum for certain non-violent offenses, diverting non-violent drug charges to community treatment facilities, eliminating disparity between Crack and powder Cocaine and reforming parole and probation are all pieces to the much needed puzzle to reform Connecticut prisons.
If you pass a bill to divert non-violent drug offenders to community treatment facilities, in Connecticut we will save $9 million for every 500 diverted. If you pass a bill to reduce probation violations, inmates of about 25%, we would immediately save $8.4 million. If you pass a bill designed to reduce transitional, community, and supervision or parole technical violations, we will immediately save $4.9 million. If you pass a bill designed to eliminate certain mandatory minimum sentences, along with eliminating the disparity between Crack and powder Cocaine, you will save millions more.
Today you are being presented with a host of bills that will begin to remedy the problem. Today I urge you to be smart on crime, save Connecticut taxpayers millions, and pass these bills.
Now, I want to talk a little bit about my previous testimony regarding Crack and powder Cocaine. I just want to say that Crack and powder Cocaine are virtually the same substance. And the only difference is that there's an inactive ingredient added to powder Cocaine that allows it to rock up and be used.
The way I see it is if we are going to give different sentences for Crack and powder Cocaine, it's just like giving different sentences for individuals that inject Heroine versus sniffing Heroine. We don't do that with Heroine, nor should we do it with Crack and powder Cocaine.
REP. DYSON: Thank you. Are there any comments or questions from members of the committee? Representative Metz.
REP. METZ: I appreciate your comments about the difference between Crack and powder Cocaine, but it disturbs me some that the solution to the problem in the minds of those who would make that change always seems to be to be more liberal about the amounts of Crack Cocaine that can be possessed. And under the statute, you can have a kilo, I think it is of marijuana. Obviously, there are reasons for making distinctions among the different substances. But why do you think it's appropriate to be more lenient? Why not if, in fact, we're creating a disparity in the arrest rates for the two different but similar substances, or same substances in different forms, why not make the penalty for Crack Cocaine more of -- or powder Cocaine more a lesser amount rather than to make them more parallel?
ROBERT ROOKS: Well, first let's put Connecticut law into the national perspective. Our .5 grams of Crack Cocaine law is the harshest I've seen in the entire country. I've never seen any other state, and I've looked for them, that compares -- that is comparable to our .5 grams of Crack Cocaine, first of all.
So it's extremely harsh. So to answer your question, I look at it from a different perspective. I look at it in terms of powder Cocaine laws existing predated to Crack Cocaine laws and those are laws that are on the books.
So, in my mind, we've dealt with the Crack Cocaine issue with the powder Cocaine statute. So, in a sense, if -- there's really no reason to come up with more harsher laws for Crack Cocaine.
Around the time when these laws came about, there was a lot of propaganda, there were a lot of media images thrown our way as it relates to Crack Cocaine and who was using it and where it was sold.
And the State and national legislators basically came up with these extreme mandatory minimums centered around Crack Cocaine around that propaganda. So, that's where I am when it comes to the Crack and powder Cocaine. In my eyes, the powder Cocaine statute deals with Crack or should deal with Crack.
Did I answer your question?
REP. METZ: I guess you did. It does seem to be that there's a disparity and injustice being perpetrated because of the format of this statute, at least that's' what's being contended and I think we should deal with that and I guess I'm not sure that the way to deal with that is by making, in one case, the law more lenient, which seems to be what everyone is lobbying for. No one has said there should be a parallel here, but we could be as strict with one as we are with the other.
ROBERT ROOKS: Well, another way to look at -- we often say that we want to help the individuals that are addicted and not lock them up and send them to jail and we really want the upper level drug dealers.
The Crack and powder Cocaine disparities specifically targets those individuals on the lower end. That's just what it does. I mean, the individuals that are on the higher end and are selling larger amounts of Cocaine, powder and crack, will be caught within the powder Cocaine statute. So I see no reason to focus narrowly on the Crack Cocaine and go after the individuals that are on the street corner as opposed to those that are really pushing major, major Cocaine and Crack.
REP. METZ: Well, you make a good point and I agree with the rest of your testimony, as well.
Thank you very much.
ROBERT ROOKS: Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Thank you. Representative McMahon.
REP. MCMAHON: I believe it was the Senator who asked if you could explain -- I think she asked State's Attorney Morano, what is the difference in amounts between a gram or a half a gram? What do they look like?
ROBERT ROOKS: Point five grams is a sugar packet. That's they way I -- and 28 grams, which is basically what one ounce is, is a half a shoe box. So that's a very big difference, in my eyes.
REP. MCMAHON: Thank you. I was wondering about the different quantities, what they would look like.
ROBERT ROOKS: And like I said, Connecticut's law is the harshest on this in the entire country, that I've seen.
REP. DYSON: Senator Harp.
SEN. HARP: Thanks. I guess I don't know for sure what it looks like. I think that a shoe box would be one ounce?
ROBERT ROOKS: One half a shoe box.
SEN. HARP: One half of a shoe box --
REP. DYSON: Would it matter what size shoe?
ROBERT ROOKS: Yeah, you're right on that.
SEN. HARP: Because that does seem like an awful lot.
ROBERT ROOKS: It is a lot. I mean, --
SEN. HARP: Okay, typically what are the other laws? What is the typical law for a state to have?
ROBERT ROOKS: Actually, the federal government's laws is like five grams to 500 grams.
SEN. HARP: Really?
ROBERT ROOKS: Yes.
SEN. HARP: So it's even bigger than a shoe box?
ROBERT ROOKS: Yeah, it's really big. If you do the -- I mean, the federal law, it doesn't even kick in, the Crack law doesn't even kick in until our powder Cocaine law kicks in.
SEN. HARP: Okay, so our powder Cocaine law then in this state is different, the amount?
ROBERT ROOKS: Yes, it is. There's much less than the federal law, but --
SEN. HARP: Yes, but is it comparable in terms of the possession laws to Crack or are they different? Are they different too?
ROBERT ROOKS: Yeah, they're different. Our possession laws on Crack are the harshest. I mean, .5 grams is -- I've talked to individuals in other states about this and it's inconceivable to them that we actually have a law that locks people up for .5 grams of Crack. Like I said, the federal law doesn't kick in, that mandatory doesn't kick in until 5 grams.
SEN. HARP: Okay. And I guess I just -- and maybe it's just my own opinion since the two chemicals are largely similar, probably for our generic drug program. A physician could give you Crack -- a pharmacist could give you Crack and they would be within a chemically similar substance. For us to basically handle it in such a radically different way is sort of -- I just don't understand how it ever got to be that way and why there is so much resistance to changing it.
Either way, I would be willing to change it -- to change Cocaine up to where Crack is just to get them equal because right now we have an irrational system that largely basically incarcerates very poor people for basically engaging in the same drug that richer people use and are not arrested or, for that matter, incarcerated for it. It seems very unfair.
ROBERT ROOKS: Well, before -- and this is just my humble suggestion, before we look into bringing Cocaine down, I suggest that we look at other states and even the national numbers because then we would really, really be off on our own in terms on how our laws are written and how harsh they are.
SEN. HARP: So do you think that if we -- although, the national government discriminates between the two same chemicals as well, doesn't it?
ROBERT ROOKS: Yes, it does. But the amount before the mandatory kicks in is much greater than ours.
SEN. HARP: Okay, well if you can get us something on that so we can at least look at what the federal government does in terms of the amount and other states, I'd certainly be interested in seeing what that is.
ROBERT ROOKS: Okay.
SEN. HARP: Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Representative Lawlor. Senator Genuario.
SEN. GENUARIO: Thank you. Very quickly. I really wanted to ask this of State's Attorney Morano. I'm not so sure the size of it is that important, but the street value is. And I'm one of those that really doesn't know that much about how this works day-to-day. That's my position and I'm sticking with it.
But what's the street value of a half of gram and what's the street value of an ounce.
ROBERT ROOKS: I don't know. I don't know. The street value is such a relative term. Are we talking about street value in Hartford or are we talking about street value in West Hartford or Avon? I just want to be cautious of that because then it narrows our focus in terms of how we're thinking about it.
SEN. GENUARIO: I'm just trying to get a handle on whether we're talking about something that's worth $25 or $5,000 --
ROBERT ROOKS: No, I understand that.
SEN. GENUARIO: I'll find out.
ROBERT ROOKS: I don't know. I wish I could help you.
REP. DYSON: Representative Lawlor.
REP. LAWLOR: Well, the best answer I've gotten to that question, by the way, is one-half a gram, in general, depending, as was pointed out, like $80 and for an ounce of pure cocaine about $2,000.
SEN. HARP: Cocaine or Crack?
REP. LAWLOR: Cocaine. Now, it's pure so what you buy street Cocaine is cut, obviously. It's mixed with other stuff, but when the law kicks in, only based on the purity. So it has to be at least a couple of ounces of street Cocaine to get an ounce of pure Cocaine.
But it's that huge difference and there's 56 times a half a gram will get you an ounce. So, it's -- in any event, that's what people have said and I think that's the least of the --
SEN. HARP: What's the difference between --
REP. DYSON: Might I do this before you do that? I'm sitting here wondering, now, I hope you all appreciate this, that we're on the t.v. system and the public at home is wondering what the hell are they talking about? I just know that. But we're having this discussion and they're watching. Okay.
REP. LAWLOR: We should have call-in number so they can tell us what the street value is in West Hartford and Springfield and other places.
REP. DYSON: I can see some guys on the block saying hey, what the hell are they talking about?
REP. LAWLOR: Alright, we're talking about pure, we're not talking about the whole lot.
But in any event, what I wanted to mention, since you brought it up, that the two guests we had here earlier, one from Kansas and one from Texas, said that in neither of those two states, surprisingly, is there actually a distinction between Crack and powder Cocaine in terms of weight and they both have tough penalties, as we do, but they don't make that particular distinction at all, let alone --
ROBERT ROOKS: New York, as well, I believe.
REP. LAWLOR: And another thing, since we're going to compare what other states do, we're one of the few states that does not have a misdemeanor offense for possession of very small amounts of narcotics. In Connecticut, even traced amounts of Cocaine, powder on a mirror, for example, is the same as having a half an ounce of Cocaine. It's a maximum sentence of seven years in prison, first offense. And even in the smallest measurable amounts.
So, that's another -- like New York, for example, it's a misdemeanor and that's for very small amounts of narcotics and that kinds of sets us apart. So everybody getting convicted of every drug offense, except for small amounts of marijuana, is getting convicted of a felony and that's part of the employment down the road even if you're not sent to prison.
So, that's an interesting distinction of ours too.
REP. DYSON: Any other comments or questions from members of the committee? Public, please forgive us. Okay, thank you very much, Mr. Rooks.
ROBERT ROOKS: Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Margaret Levy and Peter Gwynne. Peter? Is he around? How are you doing, Margaret?
MARGARET LEVY: I'm doing fine. It's a challenge to meet such a lively bunch at this hour of the evening.
REP. DYSON: We have to do something. (inaudible-microphone not on)
MARGARET LEVY: I'm Margaret Levy. I'm a member of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union and I'm an attorney in private defense work, criminal defense work here in the City of Hartford.
The Civil Liberties Union supports the committees' efforts to examine the causes and remedies for prison overcrowding. We believe that expensive prisons should be used only for incarcerating people who need to be separated from the outside community.
And we believe that the prison overcrowding can be decreased by implementing changes in the following three areas, among many others that you've already discussed.
First, persons with mental disability should be hospitalized, not incarcerated. Incarceration of such persons frequently violates their constitutional rights. It decreases their chances of recovery, of adequate functioning, and may very well add to disruptions in the prisons.
The beds which they occupy can be more appropriately used for others.
Since some persons with mental disabilities will remain in custody, we must be sure that the patient's bill of rights applies to all prisoners including those with mental disabilities. Minimum standards for mental health care should apply in all of our jails and prisons. We're glad to report that the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union is working currently with the Department of Correction to create appropriate facilities for housing and treating inmates with mental disabilities. We support DOC efforts to move mentally ill inmates out of the super-max at Northern to more appropriate settings.
Secondly, too many people are locked up for technical violations of probation and parole. There are more productive ways of dealing with probationers and parolees. I understand because I've been sitting here for hours that you've heard from a number of parties suggesting improvements in these areas. We support a system sincerely aimed at restoring prisoners to their communities, not creating revolving prison doors.
And the third area that's of significance and concern to us is one which I have not heard mentioned, although it may have been earlier in the day. The final issue involves a number of federal immigration violators held in Connecticut State jails and prisons. Instead of being released at the end of their state sentences or in appropriate cases, being held in federal facilities, these immigration violators languish in state facilities.
Just two days ago we received notice through the Attorney General's Office from the Department of Correction that as of July 1st of this year, 930 non-citizens were incarcerated in DOC facilities. A total of 351 of them were INS inmates who were held in DOC custody and that's of two weeks ago.
Seventy-eight of those inmates are being held by the State of Connecticut for INS after completion of Connecticut state sentences. This last group includes detainees who have been illegally held for longer than allowed by United States Supreme Court rulings.
The Connecticut Civil Liberties Union has seen to it, through out legal efforts, that several long term detainees have been released. We believe that there are others who ought to be released and whom we maybe working on some of those individual cases. However, we believe that the Department of Correction should set policies to prevent the detention of these groups of immigrants and that that would free up some space within the prisons.
We caution and urge the committee to be aware of the temptation to solve its overcrowding problems by exporting prisoners to other states. Three years ago, the CCLU conducted litigation against the Department of Correction challenging the transfer of 500 inmates to Whallens Ridge Prison in Virginia. At that time, the heart of our complaint was the 8th Amendment violations including use of stun guns and use of four and five point restraints as punishment for prisoners.
However, I sat here for hours and heard every single issue being judged in terms of dollars and cents. Can we save dollars here? Will we end up spending dollars there? We believe that there are values in addition to the dollar values here and that even if we were assured of the safety and constitutionality of conditions for out-of-state inmates were concerns about issues impacting on them such as separation from their families, from their lawyers, and from other community contacts.
In conclusion, we urge the passage and implementation of laws to decrease overcrowding and warehousing of persons in Connecticut's jails and prisons, but not their transfer to other states. And I'd be glad to answer any questions, if there are any.
REP. DYSON: Thank you. Representative Metz.
REP. METZ: I'm not sure I understand exactly what you mean in your first point about persons with mental disability should be hospitalized not incarcerated. A few years ago we decided that people with mental disabilities should not be hospitalized, they should be released into the community and allowed to integrate in the community and we would manage them in the community with drug therapy and supervision and what have you and I'm not saying that I think that worked particularly well, but the exception to that was people who may have had mental health disabilities, but they then committed crimes and people who committed crimes went to prison.
You're saying you want to hospitalize. What are you advocating? Are you advocating that we sentence them to Southbury or sentence them to some other more hospital-type setting or would you handle them as we do other people with mental disabilities?
MARGARET LEVY: I think that the decision needs to be made on a medical basis. Certainly, there are psychiatrists either employed by the Department of Correction or on contract to the Department of Correction, but certainly persons with severe mental disabilities should not be at large in the general population of the jails and prisons where it's my understanding that members of them are today.
Certainly, the deinstitutionalization process that you're referred to did release numbers of persons from confinement in mental hospitals, but didn't release everyone and to the degree that it's appropriate for someone with a severe mental disability to be hospitalized, that medical decision should be made and they should be given appropriate treatment.
Frankly, I'm not an expert in the area of the efforts that are currently being undertaken. I know that the full-time staff of the Civil Liberties Union, the Legal Director and some others are aware of the process that's being developed by the DOC for transfer of inmates to the Garner Institution in Newtown and if that is a constitutionally safe and protected institution, I think we would agree that it may be appropriate to transfer some of the inmates there. But certainly people who are not capable of protecting themselves from others in the prisons because of their mental illnesses or who are liable to be dangerous to guards or to other inmates, should not be left at large in the prison system.
REP. METZ: I don't disagree with what you're saying, but I'm trying to express to my concern with an easy statement like this, people with mental disabilities should be hospitalized, not imprisoned.
But I don't hear any plan for that. I don't hear someone coming up with a proposal that says a person whose found to have mental disability whose committed a crime should be sentenced to this place for this reason on these terms. It's just well, we shouldn't treat them like a common criminal.
Now, the reasons you give are very good. We shouldn't put them in with the general population. We obviously don't want someone whose going to commit violent offenses or even just criminal offenses out in the general population. I think just throwing it out like this makes it sound as if we're clearly doing the wrong thing, but you're not giving us a proposal of what the right thing is to do.
The only thing that troubles me is this -- we've heard it many time here, this reference to, people should not be incarcerated for technical violations of probation. A technical violation of probation sounds to me like he didn't show up on Monday, so we canned him, but we've heard today that a lot of technical violations of probation are the result of a person's inability to rid themselves of the drug habit, by continually coming back and showing dirty urine or whatever the term is.
That, to me, is not just a technical violation and since we don't have an alternative placement for those people, the only thing we can do with them is put them back in prison where, presumably, they would be taken away from the source of those drugs. The fact that we're not doing that right either is not the same as just saying we shouldn't be incarcerating people for mere technical violations. It's not a mere technical violation. It's something much more serious than that, in most cases and I think we need to understand that. Yes, we need to do it a little differently, but it's not that we're being unfair to some poor sap whose alarm clock didn't go off.
MARGARET LEVY: Well, I think we're talking about a range of different behaviors that are all encompassed within the term "technical violation" that one of the points which I recall reading in one of the bills which seemed to make a great deal of sense to me was essentially allowing for one relapse on a drug program instead of having a person in probation or parole found with one dirty urine and being sent back to prison immediately and understanding that there would be a provision for a second dirty urine would be the trigger to send someone back.
We're not talking about drug addicts or people who have alcohol problems. We're talking about physiological long term problems and folks, in very large part, don't recover immediately. Folks may very well slip once or slip twice and their chances of a full recovery are better in certain cases by having them continue in a drug treatment program than by necessarily sending them back to prison the first time.
REP. METZ: But what I heard in the testimony today, I think that one or two is not even in the range. I think ten and twelve is maybe more common and that there is a great deal of leniency shown in an effort to try to help people to rehabilitate themselves and then perhaps they just give up on them. But that's not to say that we couldn't be approaching this situation differently and I think it's probably the aim of this panel to try to come up with some more constructive ideas of how to approach the problem of the repeating drug user.
I just don't want -- people get the wrong idea when you say it's just a technical violation. It's not just a technical violation. It's a very significant violation. It just doesn't necessarily include a new crime and that's the distinction and to just say it's a technical violation overstates the case and I think it makes people misunderstand what it is we're trying to do.
MARGARET LEVY: Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Senator Harp.
SEN. HARP: Thank you. I guess I was a little bit -- I just need a little bit more of an explanation about the federal immigration violators. This is the first I've ever heard of it. Are they arrested by our State Police or are they arrested by federal police? And do we get reimbursed from the federal government for incarcerating these people in our prison system? How does this work?
MARGARET LEVY: It's my understanding that they include both people who have been picked up by the local police. They arrest someone a street corner for drugs and it turns out that that person is not a citizen. They will be brought into custody and not granted bail and held in the State.
There are, as I understand it, although I'm not current on the most recent contracts, there are, I believe, contracts between the State of Connecticut and the federal government which provide for housing federal detainees in Connecticut within state facilities because there is no male prison for federal prisoners here in the State. Danbury was converted to an all female institution numbers of years ago and it seems to me that at some point when one looks at prison overcrowding, that your committees may want to look into what the contract situation is, what the duration of the contract is, how many federal prisoners you're obligated to hold.
So, it's really both. Sometimes they're local people. Local police forces who arrest people who happen to be non-citizens and sometimes they are individuals whom the DEA, federal Drug Enforcement Authority or the FBI or INS itself has arrested and detained.
SEN. HARP: And 78, you say, have completed their Connecticut state sentences. Are we holding them under the Patriot's Act? Is that some new act that Congress has passed? I mean, I can't imagine that we're just holding them.
MARGARET LEVY: Frankly, what I would need to do was to ask the Legal Director of the Civil Liberties Union to get in touch with you to give you more information on that, Phil Teigler. I'm sure he has more information on it than I do. There are, again, a combination of individual who have come from various places, but at least in some part, those 78 people are individuals who would be deported, but their home countries have refused to take them back. They're complicated international asylum issues and things of that sort.
SEN. HARP: Okay, thank you.
REP. DYSON: Are there any other comments? Representative McMahon.
REP. MCMAHON: No. (inaudible-microphone not on)
REP. DYSON: Just a minute, Margaret.
REP. MCMAHON: (inaudible-microphone not on)
MARGARET LEVY: I just know one case where a gentleman from a country over in Africa where there was a great political upheaval whose father was a leader in that country, his father and his brother were killed and he was smuggled out, eventually smuggled on a boat that came into New Haven Harbor and at that point he was arrested and incarcerated in Hartford. He hadn't created any political crime. He was a teacher and he had another profession and he was a professional person and it was just incomprehensible to me that we would incarcerate him rather than work something out. We did work something out eventually and he is very, very gainfully working and they put him up at St. Thomas Seminary and he's come into the community very well.
If he went back to his country, he would be killed.
SEN. HARP: And he had to obtain that status before he was released from prison.
MARGARET LEVY: Yes, but if we had just left him in prison, he would not have obtained that status. He needed help.
REP. DYSON: Senator Genuario.
SEN. GENUARIO: I just have to ask you this, you didn't testify about it, but it was bantered about before. I don't know whether you heard it and the position of the ACLU was opined upon.
Did you hear a testimony about the Texas multi-colored bracelets for certain types of offenders?
MARGARET LEVY: Yes. The answer -- the first part of the answer to that is that in Connecticut there is a Connecticut Civil Liberties Union and I assume that we would be opposed to identifying people publicly in the kind of derogatory way that the multi-colored wrist bands --
SEN. GENUARIO: Well, suppose somebody was convicted of a crime or pled guilty to a crime where they were otherwise subject to a one year incarceration. And the judge said I ---
(inaudible-tape switched from side 5B to side 6A-some testimony/dialogue not recorded)
SEN. GENUARIO: --- being a condition of probation that you wear this bracelet and the offender says --
MARGARET LEVY: Wear a scarlet letter or whatever.
SEN. GENUARIO: -- it sounds like a good deal to me. I think particularly in the DWI situation, it makes --maybe makes some sense. Anyway, you're not crazy about it, I take that.
MARGARET LEVY: I don't think so.
SEN. GENUARIO: Thank you very much.
REP. DYSON: Might I offer -- I know previous that there was a discussion that was held about the violators, technical violations Representative Metz made reference to and I know that there was a young man that told me the story and I don't know if I related this or not to people, but I'll do so here, whose brother was confined. And the brother was out, happened to get out and he was tested two weeks later and he had a dirty urine.
The trouble with is it that he hadn't done anything, he hadn't smoked anything while out. He smoked something while in. Do you get the irony here?
MARGARET LEVY: I did. I also heard part of the Commissioner's testimony in which she appeared to very much skirt the issue of how drugs got into the prisons.
REP. DYSON: Yes. Right. Okay. Just an observation I thought about. So some of them really are technical and not a repeat offender. I'm not denying that there maybe a number of people who are repeaters in terms of -- but you can't overlook the fact that it's a sickness too and I think the testimony given earlier by the young man from Norwalk, not in treatment programs, but he went back to what he was doing a number of times until finally he did get into a program and that made the difference for him.
So I think it has to be looked at in that light. But thank you very much.
MARGARET LEVY: I would think so. Thank you.
REP. DYSON: I was calling upon who was that now, Peter Gwynne whose not around. Suzette Benn. Peter Gwynne is not around, I don't think. Angela Shenk has gotten lost. Victor Feliciano. Victor. Okay. And Mr. Hudson, who can come next. Victor Feliciano is over here. Okay. Angela is gone. Go right ahead, Suzette. Go right ahead.
SUZETTE BENN: Good evening, Senator Harp and Representative Dyson and the distinguished members of the Judiciary and the Appropriations Committee.
Thank you for sticking around to listen to us. I am Suzette Benn, Director of Community Health for the Urban League of Greater Hartford. I'm also president-elect for the Connecticut Public Health Association and Commissioner for the Advisory Commission on Multi-Cultural Health.
I'm also a veteran of public service having served in the Department of Public Health for 14 years and was a special assistant for health for a former governor and the first Commissioner of the Office of Health Care Access.
I'm here to offer you an alternative to incarceration for individuals with mental health and substance abuse problems by focusing in on prevention, drug rehabilitation, and legitimate self-sufficiency to prevent the revolving door syndrome.
And this is by using the public health model of best practices.
The mission of the Urban League of Greater Hartford is to enable African-Americans and other residents of the Hartford region to secure economic self-reliance, parity and power and civil rights. In order to accomplish our mission, we are the provider of comprehensive one-stop education, employment, youth development, community health, housing, and economic development services directed at self-sufficiency.
We have successfully partnered with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services with the implementation of two programs. One, targeting young women and the other, men of all ages with federal support.
Unfortunately, the federal support for the program for men ended a year ago and at the end of this month, the one targeting young women will end.
We were able to outreach to locate those in need of help, refer them for mental health and substance abuse treatment and case manage them through other services available within the Urban League providing them with GED's, access to college, in some cases with scholarships, technology training, employability skills, and employment. We were able to transform individuals into taxpaying citizens instead of consuming our tax dollars at $72.43 a day, if they were incarcerated.
We have advocated, we were (inaudible) after a company of some of our clients to the criminal court and we were successful in getting them, that's the judge, to sentence three young women to our program. This is the Hartford Engagement and Recovery Services Program, to sentence them to the program instead of incarcerating them and if they served a minimum of one year each, that would have saved the State, according to the Department of Correction, $80,000.
We have also been able to keep families together which also is a cost savings effort to the State. The Urban League of Greater Hartford would like to partner with the Department of Correction to offer proven methods of rehabilitation utilizing our comprehensive one-stop services. This approach will not only save money for the State, but will keep families together now and protect future generations.
And I encourage you to look at the long term effectiveness of prevention as an alternative to incarceration and not only rehabilitation, but also the ability to transform people that would be wards of the State to taxpaying citizens and I thank you for your time.
And in the interest of those who are yet to follow me, I think I'll shut up and sit down.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Are there any comments or questions? If not, we're fine, thank you.
Next, Victor and then Herb.
VICTOR FELICIANO: Goodnight to all of you.
REP. DYSON: How are you doing?
VICTOR FELICIANO: Been a long night. I've been up since five in the morning and I'm still on my feet. And you've got my testimony.
REP. DYSON: Were you here in April?
VICTOR FELICIANO: Yeah, my name is Victor Carlos Feliciano.
REP. DYSON: Yeah, I remember you, yeah.
VICTOR FELICIANO: You remember me, right?
REP. DYSON: Yeah.
VICTOR FELICIANO: I'm still around. My name is Victor Carlos Feliciano and I've been in recovery from drug abuse for three years and I'm also a prior member of the Windham Chapter of CCAR.
I appreciate the hard work and important work that you have been doing concerning the prison overcrowding and the pardon process. Something needs to be done and I'm glad you are doing it.
I'm here today to support dudes that are having a hard time learning to live as a convicted felon. I'm here for them and I'm here also for me. Either you include in your bill the erasure of a criminal record and make pardons for those convicted of a non-violent and a non-drug dealing crime possible.
By all statistics, I didn't have much of a chance to have a good life. My mother did the best she could with me, but not having a father and or a positive role model, I failed her greatly. As a kid I dreamed about being a baseball star, but I never knew how to get from point "a" to point "b" to achieve that. The first thing I learned instead is how to steal, do drugs, and run with the gangs. I was a fourth grade dropout and I lived a life of crime. It took until (inaudible) years and 22 behind bars. It wasn't until three years ago when I discovered recovery for the first time. Today, I do my best for society, for me and for the recovery community. I refuse to act, speak, think like the victim and I am so grateful to speak up for those who still suffer from this terrible disease of addiction through no fault of their own.
I've tried to help them, to make it easy for them to see the light, the light of freedom and live a life of good living. Convicted felons need substance recovery first want peace with the past. We did our time and paid our dues, now we want to move on and get a life worth living. For those that we care for and ourselves. God cannot change what we did when we lived in a life of crime, but yes, He forgives us. I believe He forgives me, wouldn't you?
(inaudible) we fill out an application and we come across our boss with the question, "have you ever been a convicted felon?" Here comes the guilt, the shame and the remorse and then the anger and resentment when we are not being considered for a job or an apartment when we know what we could do and deserve.
Today I am blessed. I started working as a dishwasher three years ago because those are the types of jobs us people get, but do you know what? I'm the best dishwasher in this state and I am proud of it.
The company appreciates me because now I am a crew chief and I have the respect of those that work with me because of my dedication and my positive attitude. I only missed work twice due to illness. I finished parole successfully and I started probation without supervision. They told me I didn't need a babysitter and that I know what to do. That was a good feeling, but still there's a dark cloud that follows me as it does everywhere for those in sustained recovery and that is being a convicted felon.
As I've told every time I fill out that little box on applications, you are bad and you will always be bad and you don't deserve anything better.
I have another dream today and that is to become a drug and alcohol counselor. I've believe that I'm capable of great things today. I have proven so far that I am willing to work hard for a better life. When I get my GED and get into more schooling. Please help make it possible for me to realize my dream this time. Please don't take this away. Give me an opportunity to apply for an apartment or an (inaudible) and live a positive life that I know today that I'm capable of. I will continue to make you proud.
Thank you for your time. Thanks. Are there any questions?
REP. DYSON: Any questions. Good to see you, man.
VICTOR FELICIANO: Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Alright, Herb.
HERB HUDSON: Thank you, Representative Dyson, Madam Chair and the rest of the panel for allowing me to speak this evening.
The reason I am here is to address one issue and that is probation and rehabilitation. I work in a small manufacturing company, a start-up company. For months we have been trying to contact members of the Department of Correction about any success. We've been trying to set up training programs in the skill trades area for people getting out of prison.
What we're trying to do is teach them skill trades where they can have a path for a better life. I'm putting together a manufacturing company. We bring in products and product lines from overseas through state contracts, through government contracts and we are still trying to train individuals getting out of prison. Companies that hire skilled workers in the State are mostly located in the suburbs. They will not hire those that have a felony record or test positive for drugs. Unfortunately, when I go to a McDougal or other businesses in the State, most of the young people that I see look like me. I have a responsibility to try and train them, if I can, those who are willing to turn their lives around and get into a skill trades program where they can earn a very good living.
Skills trades pay -- of the highest paying jobs in this State that don't require a college degree and many skill trades pay more than most of those with a college degree.
If this state can spend millions on a football stadium for 48 football players, I can't see why we can't find the money for training for skill trades to help those getting out of prison.
What I'm looking for here is a name that I can contact in the Department of Corrections that I can sit down and speak with and go over the training programs that I would like to institute in this state. So far, I have not had any success in the phone calls that I have made. I have called and I have called and I have called and I have called. And they have never returned my calls. So since I heard about this hearing today, coming back from a doctor's appointment this morning, I figured maybe I could stop here and be out in about an hour or two.
But it didn't work out that way. But I know that people I'm trying to help have been sitting in prison for a lot longer than I've been here today and they deserve a chance. And I've been in the skill trades field for over 30 years and I know that just like the young man who sat here just before you, if I could teach him how to make his life better, he would be more than willing to learn.
And there are hundreds like him in this State. I can give you my card and I do government contracting. That's how we bring in business. And we need a grant and we need a facility. We can find a facility to put in, New Britain or Hartford to train people getting out of prison. And that's what I'm looking for today.
REP. DYSON: Do me a favor, talk to Andrew there and he'll give you Scott Simple's number and you all can work that out. You said someone in DOC?
HERB HUDSON: Someone in the Department of Corrections, yes.
REP. DYSON: Scott Simple.
HERB HUDSON: I thank you.
REP. DYSON: He can direct you somewhere.
HERB HUDSON: Okay. Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Next is Father Lou Paturzzo. How are you doing, Father? Kathy Osten. Vanessa Burns. And then the scientific dinosaur. Go right ahead, Father.
REV. LOU PATURZZO: Thank you. My name is Lou Paturzzo and I'm here representing the Connecticut Puerto Rican Forum and also the City of Hartford's Substance Abuse Commission and I'd like to begin by thanking Representative Dyson and everyone else who had any part in working on preparing this bill concerning prison overcrowding.
As Mayor Eddie Perez said earlier this evening, we, in Hartford, are ready to work with inmates prior to their release and to work to support them after their release so that they can re-enter the Hartford community and succeed in moving in a new direction in their life.
We believe, I think, or I believe that the real issue is not so much that we have too many people in prison, but rather we have too many people in prison who really don't need to be there. Our prisons in Connecticut are not filled just with violent criminals who are a threat to society, but actually are filled more with people who are struggling with drug addiction, who have mental health issues that make it difficult for them to survive in the community, who have been returned to prison for technical violations of parole or probation, and not technical violations that involve acts of violence. And also that we have altogether all too many people in prison who have not even been convicted of a crime, but who are in prison because they don't have enough money to make the high bails that are being routinely set for non-violent offenses.
According to the DOC website, there are over 3,800 unsentenced inmates in Connecticut's county jails and prisons and it's not only the three county jails, but virtually every prison in the State has unsentenced inmates and many several hundred unsentenced inmates.
If we do as this bill suggests, I believe that we won't need to send 2,000 inmates out-of-state. I think we have enough room right in our State. The problem is that too many cells are being taken up by inmates who are no real serious threat. I think, as the Governor said at the last hearing, we need to look at risk management. I think we need to look at allowing non-violent inmates a chance to re-enter society long before the ends of the sentences that they are currently serving.
If we look at some of the figures that were thrown around today, I think the Commissioner mentioned that there are about 2,500 people who are in prison for technical violations of probation. The bill seeks to lower that by 20%. That would save about 500 beds in our prison. With 3,800 unsentenced inmates, not speaking about those who are awaiting trial or disposition of their cases for violent crimes, but those who are in prison for relatively minor offenses because they can't make bond. The only ones who make bond now, with the way the bonds are being set in the GA courts are those who live in the suburbs and have homes that they can put up as collateral or those who are selling so many drugs that they don't really care and can afford bail. But the average person whose in on a non-violent crime, the average poor person, can't make the bonds.
And so if we could reduce, even by 20%, the 3,800 people who are incarcerated without being sentenced and if we could stop using bail as a way of sentencing poor people without going through the process of a trial or a conviction, then we could reduce - easily reduce the inmate population by over 700 inmates.
If we look at the 1,500 Level One and Level One means that they're practically out the door anyway. This is not letting people out years before or after doing 20 or 30 percent of their sentence. These are people who have done the 50% minimum and who are there only because they can't find halfway houses or people who are being at Level One, they're deemed as no real security threat to the Department of Correction and who likewise are no real security threat to the community.
If we could lower that by just a small amount, we would have saved the 2,000 beds that the Commissioner needs to avoid sending inmates to out-of-state.
The Commissioner had mentioned that there is a difference between a Level One person and a Level Four person and indicated that we need Level Four beds and not Level One beds in this state, but there's a trickling effect. If we can reduce the Level One, Level Two, Level Three beds in the lower security facilities, that could mean that we could take an institution like Osborne, which is a Level Three facility, but built like a Level Four facility and turn it into a Level Four facility. Osborne has approximately 1,700 beds or cells anyway and that would avoid the need of sending people out-of-state separating them from their family and making re-entry into the community more difficult.
REP. LAWLOR: Can I just interject that you should point out because you call it Osborne. We know it as Somers. It's the old Somers prison.
REV. LOU PATURZZO: The old Somers Prison, right.
REP. LAWLOR: Which is why you're saying it's really a Level Four, being used as a Level Three.
REV. LOU PATRUZZO: It's -- right. It was one time a Level Four when it was the old Somers Prison. Now it's a Level Three, but it's designed, actually, as a Level Four facility and actually now is run almost as a Level Four facility. And Osborne, which wasn't mentioned, the old Somers Prison, has over 300 unsentenced inmates there too and the county jail has actually only 2,000 of the 3,800 or so unsentenced inmates that are now in the prisons.
So I think if we began to implement what this bill does, not only would it be a more just solution to the overcrowding problem, it would not make our communities any less safe, it would make them more safe because as money is invested into treatment and into transition programs, the recidivism rate would be less and our communities would be safer because people who might otherwise go back to crime would be helped to move in a more positive direction.
I think the implementation of this bill can only help the entire community and I want to thank you for introducing it.
REP. DYSON: Thank you. Are there any comments or questions from members of the committee? Thank you very much.
REV. LOU PATURZZO: Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Kathy, Vanessa. Is Todd Francini here? Okay.
KATHY OSTEN: Good evening. How are you tonight?
REP. DYSON: Fine.
KATHY OSTEN: That's good, I'm glad to hear that. Me too, I'm fine.
My day started off rather crappy. I had a flat tire and my washing machine broke so I decided I obviously am not rushing for anything today, so I don't care how long this takes and I don't want to go home and clean up the floor.
I'm Kathy Osten. I'm the current President for the Correction Supervisors Council and Connecticut State Employees Association. I'm a Lieutenant at Gates Correctional Facility. I've been an employee at the Department of Corrections for about fourteen years.
And currently there is a serious shortage of Lieutenants in the Department. As a result, we have to work many mandatory over-time shifts and schedules that rarely allow for weekends off. In my opinion, this shortage was a result of an anti-union campaign by the former Commissioner of the Department and the Lieutenants forming a union, although that's not why I'm here today.
I'm saying that even with our shortage, shipping more prisoners out-of-state doesn't solve the problem that we have in the Department of Correction or the correctional system or the criminal justice system. All that does is effectively punish the family of an offender.
What I believe we need to do is rethink the way we incarcerate people in Connecticut who have been convicted of crimes. We need to concentrate our energies and our efforts and our money on the right programs, it could release many Level One and Level Two inmates if there were safety nets out there properly run. Alternative programs would be more effective and a less costly way for prisoners to serve their sentence.
Is it fiscally attractive to spend $64 a day in out-of-state prisons when that money sent out-of-state is spent out-of-state? Where do we want our state dollars spent? I would assume that our tax dollars would be spent inside the State of Connecticut where we would earn more tax dollars to further fund programs. Money earned by the staff in a community-based program would be spent here in Connecticut. The offender has the ability in these programs to establish themselves in a job and in the community and reconnect with their family and environment.
We talked about technical violators. Many times, we bandy about what that means and who they are. Most recently, I was talking to an inmate who came back and I've seen him, I've been transferred to many different facilities and I think I'm on my sixth or seventh facility, I don't think that had anything to do with starting a union, but maybe. Nonetheless, the inmate came in and I was talking to him, what are you doing back? He said, well, a technical violation. I said what was it, did you get a dirty urine? He said no, I had clean urines and that's a common term that we use, dirty urine, clean urine, that's what we talk about. Drug offenders, that's how we test them.
And he said I was working, I had to pay my back taxes and I was working on paying my child support. He wasn't trying to make up a story to please me because whether I can't do anything for this particular individual to get back out of jail. I can't give him anything. I don't have the ability to give him a job. I can't get him out of jail. I'm not going to give him a furlough.
He was just saying he generally had everything back on track and he was late for a counseling session. He was re-incarcerated for the rest of his sentence which is another year for violating the provisions of this program.
I do want to point out to you, he had been contributing toward his child's welfare. He was paying his way in society, probably not with the highest paying taxes in the world, but he was working. And he was now costing -- now he's costing us $25,000 to $30,000 for his 20 minutes of tardiness. He did say one thing that I found rather interesting. He said, "in twelve months with I EOS, when I end my sentence, who will bother helping me transition then?" And he will have nothing there.
Another issue that I really take very strongly is the number of mentally ill people that are incarcerated in Connecticut's facilities. In past years, many of these individuals would have been housed in such facilities as Norwich Hospital and Fairfield Hills and a determination was made by people much smarter than me that we didn't want to institutionalize our mentally ill. All we have succeeded in doing is re-institutionalizing them in environments that are not trained to take care of them, where the treatment is not there, where the ability of the staff to recognize those issues are not there because we're not trained to deal with the mentally ill. We're trained to deal with those people who make behavioral choices out in society and we need to remove them from society appropriately so.
Recently, our union filed an Amicas brief, a wrongful death suit against the State in a case in which the State did not give anti-psychotic drugs to a mentally ill inmate who subsequently became violent and died as he was being subdued.
The argument is that the State is not required to give these drugs to inmates because they are not necessarily being afforded the rights of the patient under the patients bill of rights. We feel that by not dispensing medications and appropriately providing treatment to people who have offended society, but are mentally ill, that our prisons will become a much more dangerous environment to work in and by the way, no out-of-state facility will accept diagnosed mentally ill inmates.
In closing, the solutions seem clear. We need to fund more community-based programs here in Connecticut for Level One and Level Two inmates. We need to stop re-incarcerating individuals for technical violations and we need to have adequate mental health treatment for those inmates that need it.
And could you implement my arbitration award, while I'm here too? But I don't think I'm going to get that today.
I appreciate your time.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Any comments or questions? Thank you very much, Kathy. Vanessa.
VANESSA BURNS: I just want everybody to know that thanks to you guys, I don't have to watch Law and Order tonight, which starts at ten o'clock. I never make it anyway.
Good evening, Chairpersons and honorable members of both the Appropriations and Judiciary. My name is Vanessa Burns and I'm the Executive Director of the African American Affairs Commission.
I'm here because earlier in the legislative session, the Commission presented testimony in support of a number of other recommendations outlined in the Prison Overcrowding Report issued by the Prison and Jail Overcrowding Commission, and initiatives discussed in the Building Bridges Report.
Today, the Commission expresses continued support for new proposals mentioned in this working draft and reducing prison overcrowding in the State of Connecticut.
I'm not going to read my whole statement. I guess you guys have it in your packets, but I think the most important thing to be concerned about, as representatives of the African American community, is that although we're only 9% of the population, we're about 40% of the population in DOC facilities. So, when you talk about what is happening potentially with alternative incarceration, you're talking about a significant portion of our communities. They're not being dealt with.
When you talk about the 1,500 people that presently are ready to go out to rejoin community, that there are no facilities for, you're talking about a substantial number of our community that is not being dealt with.
But I will also say and I know that the Latino and Puerto Rican community presented, I think, some testimony. Reality is that what is going on in the Department of Corrections with the number of inmates that we have, it's really a reflection of poor people in our state and how they're being dealt with. And I think that as the community is concerned, we're interested in making sure that there are alternatives for the people that are in the community, whether they're Black, White, green, poor, rich, that in the event that - since it's about 80% of the population in a prison is somewhat related to drugs, that we need to, as a matter of course, to begin the process of beginning to look at alternatives instead of people being placed in the prisons.
I think that one of the things that really concerns a lot of us is that you'll spend $25,000 in a Connecticut Department of Correction facility, but there are about 9,000 African Americans in our state prisons, but there's about 6,000 African American males in our colleges. The highest amount of money that one would spend going to a college, even if you went to UConn, is probably about $16,000 or $17,000. To stay in a prison in the State of Connecticut, it costs about $25,000.
So, the Commission and I think our community and I think someone said "fund our community" tonight. I'd like to say help our community because a significant portion of our community is not being dealt with. Not just the issue that I've heard relative to the issue of disparities between Crack Cocaine and Cocaine and how that relates to the people there in the prisons, it was also the issue of the task force on the disparities in criminal justice, which I think Judge Ment was the chairperson of. And one of the things that came out of that of all the things that came out of that, that I think has been discussed in the reports that are a part of the sentences of all these things that have come out of the recommendations. The one thing that probably bothers me the most is that the decision on whether you are paroled or whether you go into the jail is sometimes directly related, I believe, to your color and to you economic situation.
And so this committee and I heard there started to be a discussion about race and we kind of talked about it for a few minutes, but the reality is and I think that's why that task force was created, because we need to look at why, in this community, in our state, that there are so many disparities in the criminal justice system that are impacting.
So that in 1980, there were 5,000 prisoners and in 2003, there's 19,000. And what has precipitated that and has the fact that we built $1 billion worth of prisons, really helped the situation.
And so that's all I think -- there are additional things I think in my written testimony, but those are the kinds of things that we're interested in.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Are there any comments or questions? If not, thank you very much, Vanessa.
Next -- who do we have next here? Hey, the dinosaurs, the scientific dinosaurs. Let's go. That is James Retarides, Simon Edgett, Stephen Ross, Jennifer DeChello, Donna Sivak and Michael Sivak. Okay.
JAMES RETARIDES: I like the view from here, it's very official. And then you can fill out the rest of it.
I would just like to preface this by saying that I'm in support of the bill, good work and all, great job.
REP. DYSON: Thank you.
JAMES RETARIDES: But beyond that, I think we're here today or tonight, I guess, with the task of coming up with further solutions. We must resolve the compounding wows of an antiquated prison system.
I ask you, are we keeping our streets, our people safe by having mandatory minimum sentences? Or are we, to some extent, just exacerbating the injustices that permeate throughout the justice system? Are we incarcerating innocent people? If so, how many. Forgive me, I have flu-like symptoms.
Just one is one too many. We must escape this philosophy that says we must break a few eggs to make an omelet. It seems that rather than educating our young and troubled, we are giving up on them and putting them in a place where they can become educated on only how to become more proficient at criminal activity. Let's face it, the people we are incarcerating don't exactly have access to college professors. Help and correction don't always have to come in the form of prison stripes.
In many cases, we are giving up on people at the first sign of trouble. We cannot continue to be so fly-by-night. It's like being a parent. To be a good one, you must show your child that you'll be there for them through adversity. That's the measure of a parent, of a friend, a leader, a community, a state, a country, and ultimately a world. We can't afford to continue to be so short sighted, sweeping our problems under the preverbal rug, focusing more on punishment only.
I'm not asking anyone to coddle our true criminal element. I'm asking for reform. I want there to be an understanding in the justice system that these are all autonomous people, that there is no blanket solution. Are some beyond help? Probably, but they're the exception rather than the rule. Meanwhile, the DOC budget is getting out of hand. The prison population has swelled so far out of proportion, that Connecticut is spending top dollar to send prisoners out-of-state.
As a generalist and with equal education in sociology, I can say this, that ultimately the media has been part to blame for this failure. While the medias has been more attentive to these issues as of late, for the most part, the people have been failed, become less informed about these issues, the ones that actually effect them, their lives and not just their taxes. Instead, our media, our watchdog, has focused on images that satisfy our curiosity which causes others a great deal of trauma. That seems to be entertainment these days.
Meanwhile, since the early 1980's four to five times as many of your state's people are being de-sensitized at a prison nearest you. If they do happen to leave prison with their ideals intact, they will do with a scarlet letter, with an extra burden, a label for life.
Is that justice? With that approach, how can you possibly expect to prevent recidivism? The prison population is that fast rolling snowball that is bearing down the hill into oblivion, the point of no return. It's growing. It's getting far too big to handle. And we must stop it.
Ladies, gentlemen, it's a very good reason why we have a judicial branch. Can we take its power and just fork it over to the legislative side? No, that would be unconstitutional. Mandatory minimum sentences therefore are unconstitutional. It's a case where legislators set blanket prison terms rather than leaving the sentencing aspects of the criminal justice system to those who are supposed to be the true experts, the judges. If they are being soft, I ask you to institute more stringent measures of judicial review. Besides, mandatory minimum sentences open the door to injustice.
Mike Sivak over here, he's not just collateral damage. He's a person who defended himself against an attacker and found, even to the regret of the judge, that he would be the victim, the victim of a mandatory five year sentence and like Martin Luther King once said, a statement that I once used as my senior quote in my high school yearbook, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Please think about this.
This bill is certainly a significant step in the right direction. It comes as a result of hard work. For that, I am thankful. Now we must raise awareness to the Mike Sivaks, the people that are serving jail time who don't belong there. After being convicted, life as these people knew it, is over. We can still set it straight, however. I honestly believe that and we can set a precedent here today and make a statement.
We can say that Connecticut will no longer tolerate these injustices, these albeit unintended consequences that accompany mandatory minimums. Among those well versed in law, fundamentally nobody supports mandatory minimum sentences except for prosecutors and even some of them look upon them unfavorably.
Let's assure that all people have the inalienable rights that served as the foundation on which our democracy was built upon. The bottom line is that we cannot send people to prison that don't belong there. It's immoral. The argument that says points of law and ethics don't always intersect is just a guise. We cannot lose sight as to why we have laws in the first place. It is time, once again, to make what is legal and what is ethical one in the same.
Like I said earlier, I'm only asking you guys to do the right thing here.
Now, I have another suggestion because I know this has been coming up like all day. I used to be a reported in Guilford for the Shoreline Times and when I was over there, I met a man named Glen Reimers who runs a program called "Catapult." I don't know if you've heard of him.
REP. DYSON: Yeah, we know Catapult.
JAMES RETARIDES: Mr. Metz here, right there in Madison and Mr. Lawlor is in East Haven. You guys should stop by sometime and check out what he's doing. He's doing some really good work. I did a story about his program. It's called "Catapult" and it focuses on relapse prevention rather than just detox because you can detox somebody and send them right back out on the street and they end up right back where they were. That's the whole revolving door. You send them to Glen and him and his people just take care of them. They give them jobs, they give them housing. Those are the programs you need to invest in if you're going to really make a difference for these people.
That's all. Any questions?
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. No questions here. Appreciate your testimony. Thanks for being here.
JAMES RETARIDES: The pleasure was all mine.
REP. DYSON: I think Glen has a place in New Haven on Orange Street.
JAMES RETARIDES: He does now, yes.
SIMON EDGETT: For the record, my name is Simon Edgett. I would like to thank the committee for allowing me this opportunity to speak.
I feel that the proposed bill is a step in the right direction, but that other issues must also be addressed in order to fully deal with the problems of prison overcrowding.
Moving prisoners out-of-state is not an effective means of reducing the prison population in Connecticut, but, in fact, only serves to increase the strain financially on taxpayers of the State and emotionally on the families of prisoners. I am a newcomer to the issue of the current prison system. recently, a close friend of mine went to result of mandatory minimum laws for an offense that did not merit the sentence. It is a shame that this nation's citizens are not more involved in the political policies of the State until something happens to them to effect their personal lives.
We've all heard terms like "prison overcrowding", "tough on crime", "mandatory minimums", and "three strikes". They're just phrases in passing like the jingle at the end of every television and radio commercial.
Our plates are so full every day with work and family, car trouble, perhaps even washing machine trouble, that we don't have time to think about the issues surrounding an ever revolving society. We think we're fulfilling our responsibilities to the State's political processes by voting in each election, even if our decisions are uninformed, at best and watching the ten o'clock news.
Maybe we just disregard the information that passes before our eyes and ears each day. Maybe we think it doesn't effect me, but in this case, everyone is being effected. The State's prisons are overflowing with criminals in a time where the crime rate is dropping. More people are going to jail and fewer crimes are being committed, then something is wrong with the equation. Now the equation begins with mandatory minimum sentencing laws.
Mandatory minimum laws are blind to the circumstances surrounding any particular case. Man "A" who pulls out a pocketknife as a last resort in an attempt to scare off an attacker who has an obvious physical advantage over him, unintentionally stabs his attacker. Man "B" who causes an accident on the highway, pulls out a knife and stabs the other driver during an argument. Both men stand trial. Both men are found guilty by a jury. Both men are sent to prison for five years under our mandatory minimum laws. Mandatory minimum laws are a matter of black and white, but life is not black and white. We live in full color. Life is complex. We all make decisions, hundreds of thousands of them each day. Many of those decisions are mistakes and accidents naturally follow. Some of these accidents can change the course of our lives, but to blindly sentence a person to jail, to destroy an otherwise outstanding human being's life by stamping him a felon for one decision he made in a desperate situation is wrong.
Judges ought to be permitted, as they once were, to practice discretion in such cases. Imprisonment can, in many cases, cause more harm than good. Alternative programs do exist, probation, rehabilitative programs and halfway houses. These programs cost the State and taxpayers substantially less than incarceration. These programs lessen the burden on our already overcrowded prisons. A significant portion of our state's inmates do not belong in jail.
Through these alternative programs, low risk prisoners can remain gainfully employed, thus reducing the burden on loved ones and the State.
By removing unnecessary inmates from incarceration, the prison population will be reduced, thus reducing the strain on prison workers, families, and friends of convicts and the taxpayers' wallet.
(inaudible-tape switched from Side 6A to side 6B - some testimony/dialogue not recorded)
SIMON EDGETT: --- it isn't necessarily simple, but it is obvious. In order to being dealing with the issues of prison overcrowding, mandatory minimum sentencing laws must be eliminated.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Are there any questions? Thank you very much.
Who do we have next? This is Michael?
STEPHEN ROSS: No. Hello. My name is Steve Ross.
REP. DYSON: Steve Ross, okay.
STEPHEN ROSS: I would like to thank the chairpersons and the committee members for the bill presented before us. As the gentleman before me stated, it's a step in the right direction. I'd also like to thank everyone who spoke tonight. I think, for me, it's really nice to see so many people taking an active role in their community and in their state.
However, I feel that there's much more to be done to make the judicial system more rational if perfection itself can't be achieved. One way to approach this ideal is to address the disturbing American mindset toward criminality. In many respects, I believe this mindset is more detrimental to a democratic society than crime itself.
(inaudible) leave work around 6:00 o'clock p.m. and faithfully listen to national public radio on my commute home to New Haven from Milford, a few weeks ago the coverage just focused on John Ashcroft's attempts to stringently document and question individual judges' discretionary application of leniency. Ashcroft and the legislators who agree with him contend that this lenience isn't discretionary but sweeping. They assert that we must be tough on crime.
My drives home taught me that I despise the phrase "tough on crime". Every time I heard it tonight, I did. Like so much media hyperbole that we adopt into our lexicon, and as an over-simplification illuminates nothing about the complexities, the problems that it tries to address. What does "tough" mean? More in terms of imprisonment, harsher treatment in prison, breaking the criminal of his bad habit, more police, more arrests, more prisoners and why? To deter us good guys from becoming bad guys.
Consider the paradox. As taxpayers, we couldn't be more invested in slimming jail populations which will logically determining which criminals pose an actual threat to society from those that don't. We also need to try to understand this level of crime occurs in the first place, I would imagine.
After all, we pay for their housing, as we discussed, mental and physical care, and we pay for those policing them. Can any of this be described as "tough"? If America really wants to put more people in jail and have them sentenced for longer periods of time, how can these two desires ever be reconciled?
Now, the more provisions providing them (inaudible) for lawmaking may not be so black and white as this, they become so when a structure like mandatory minimum sentencing is built out of thin air.
I'd also like to state that obviously we work very hard to try not to have too much repetition in what we say. However, I think the repetition is important in the fact that so many people here tonight have mentioned this. I think it's becoming more a matter of public awareness and I think that's a good step on its own.
But in any case, these laws do nothing than bolster election campaigns, serving no civic purpose other than giving constituents one dimensional solutions to difficult issues.
Are there any psychological or rehabilitative aims behind them? No, not judging from my experiences, anyway.
As you heard prior to me, during the Spring of 2001, Mike was arrested of a crime that carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. What those five years mean to him is pain, humiliation and lasting stigma. I cannot even comprehend the physiological -- psychological, I'm sorry, psychological implications of this. What I can empathize with is how severely the sentence alters everyone's lives, all of our lives.
Look at where it's put me, very nervous, unable to speak in crowds, before an assembly, discussing a painful, private matter that I never imagined I would have to. The magazine this friend and I publish, which all of you have, was at its conception of our project. It has become -- it has now become some kind of activist platform, something for which it was never intended.
We worked dozens of hours a week in an attempt to bring the unconscionable state of prisons to light by publishing facts, figures, and all the personal pain we have endured. All this and I hear the patronizing call from Ashcroft, unwise Legislature, legislators and their supporters, "we need to be tough on crime."
I ask that you consider that for once let us be tough on something other than people. Let's be tough on ourselves and strive to understand criminal behavior and its consequences before we trivialize and dismiss it.
If our sentencing laws become standardized and that the branches of government undermine our judges' authority, our checks and balances are compromised and our prisons overflow. Our treasured democracy is nothing more than another catch phrase, "sounding good, but meaning little."
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. That was an excellent presentation.
Next, Jennifer DeChello.
JENNIFER DECHELLO: Good evening.
REP. DYSON: Good evening.
JENNIFER DECHELLO: My name is Jennifer DeChello. I am a resident of West Haven and I'm here today speaking as a concerned citizen in support of the bill on prison overcrowding.
Like most people, I never knew what mandatory minimum sentences were until I was effected personally. My boyfriend, Michael, was convicted of assault in the first degree and received a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. He had never committed a crime, had a college degree, but these things did not matter when it came time for sentencing.
The sentence was already set because of the law and the judge had no other option. Flexibility in sentencing would have helped in this case, as it would in many others. Instead, we have human beings going to jail for long periods of time with no hope of ever being looked at as individuals.
These laws have effected many people and could effect anyone. It could be any of our fathers or sons, sisters, friends, and they would have no chance at all. We have to imagine ourselves in that position to really feel how terrible it is for everyone involved. A mandated sentence for someone that should not be in prison, should not be allowed. It is just not right.
I can't tell you how hard it is to have to just sit by and watch. You feel absolutely helpless and imagine what five years in prison could do to the person you care so much about.
People in support of abolishing mandatory minimum sentences are not advocating being soft on crime. And that is what I really want to stress because I think that's the biggest misconception of all.
We are just advocating being smart when it comes to making the right decision for each individual case. We want people to trust judges to impose sentences that fit the crime. There are review boards in place to make sure judges do their job correctly, so why not just allow them to do it?
These changes need to be made now before it's too late. I ask you to think about these laws and understand the impact that you will have upon so many people. Think of how many people are in prison right now that should not really be there.
The decisions we make today can effect them and many others in the future. I feel that this bill is a positive change in the right direction. My hope is that we can continue to work on these laws until judges are given back the discretion that will enable them to do their job. Then, individuals may not have to feel as helpless as others have in the past.
Thank you for your time.
REP. DYSON: Thank you. Donna.
DONNA SIVAK: Okay, now I'm the nervous one. Good evening, everyone.
REP. DYSON: Good evening, Donna.
DONNA SIVAK: My name is Donna Sivak. I'm a resident of Stratford and I work as a nursery school teacher in Southport. I apologize if I'm a little nervous and I was going to say I'm not used to talking in big crowds, but there's not many people around.
I'd like to express my feelings in regards to mandatory minimum sentencing, a law that I have found to be wrong and unconstitutional. I have a very strong personal connection with this topic.
Up until about two and one-half years ago, I never really had much involvement in political matters, but then my son was arrested and charged with first degree assault, following an act of self-defense. I didn't give up. I had faith in the judicial system. I knew the lawyers, jurors and judge would see that this young man, never in trouble with the law before, a college graduate and a young man who has held the same job for six years, was not a threat to society.
But I was wrong. At trial, he was found guilty. On the day of sentencing, once again, I never gave up hope. I was sure that the judge would take it upon himself to grant my son a lenient sentence, but guess what? He didn't have that authority. But he's the judge, I thought. Why isn't he the one to make such a decision? The answer, of course, was mandatory minimum sentencing. How unfair.
I continued to try to understand the logic of this law, but I just can't. The judge was at trial. He had all the information and details of the case, and still it was out of his hands.
My son was given a five year mandatory sentence. I felt my world fall apart. I never stopped thinking about how unfair this law is. It never made sense to me.
There are many, many kinds of cancer cases with many different circumstances. That is why doctors handle each case individually. I feel that people involved in legal cases should be treated the same way. People make mistakes and sometimes make bad choices due to fear and other factors. So why should individual receive the same punishment? I feel judges should be the decision-makers and should be given the opportunity to give the appropriate punishment he or she feels fit to the individual person and crime.
Ending on a more positive note, my son has been out on bond for over a year. He's working, attending graduate school and is now awaiting an appeal. I hope the judicial system doesn't fail us again, but I won't give up hope.
REP. DYSON: Thank you. Michael, are you going to say anything tonight?
MICHAEL SIVAK: Yes, I'm going to keep it short. It's a little different than what I had written and I just have a few other ideas, but I'm not really going to talk about mandatory minimum sentences. I think they -- and I want to thank them a lot.
I know that they really feel strongly against the law, but I know my situation has kind of been the impetus, so I --
REP. DYSON: Did you invite some of your friends here?
MICHAEL SIVAK: My very good friends, yes.
REP. DYSON: (inaudible-microphone not on) You ought to feel proud to have people to stand by you.
MICHAEL SIVAK: I do, I definitely do. Okay, I guess I'm just going to jump into this.
Good evening. I'd like to start my comments by expressing my support for the bill presented before us today. I would like to thank Mr. Dyson and Mr. Lawlor, personally, because I know they've invested so much of your own time into this and I think it's a really good cause.
Let's see. I think this bill represents the first step in a journey towards creating a truly democratic and just justice system. I think it's kind of funny that when you look back into history and I've been doing a lot of research and I'm not completely happy with it, but that's why I hope you look at the books that we have there because there are some -- but I digress.
When one looks back into history at the people that we, as a nation, collectively called heroes, it's kind of strange that more often than not these are people who fought against the injustices of our own governments and institutions. Just to name a few examples, Soldier of Truth, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., but given the less than favorable conditions of our prison with laws -- this is the one time I'm going to say it -- such as mandatory minimum sentences in place, I kind of feel like our justice system is fast becoming an institution of injustice.
And I think it's times like these that we could use a few new American heroes like that. I think legislators, such as yourselves, are in a unique position to kind of fill that role because you already have a lot of power. For the normal guy, it's a little harder.
We must look past the tough on crime rhetoric and just look at the simple truth that the justice system deals solely with real life human beings, human beings who, as we heard today, are now sleeping maybe on beds on top of gymnasium floors, but they're still on gymnasium floors. And I just don't -- human beings whose families are all but destroyed by long sentences being shipped out-of-state, things like this just because -- and maybe it's my crazy theory, but some prison capitalists made a campaign contribution to someone who already figured it was kind of catchy to say "tough on crime" a lot.
Just a few comments. As far as there was some debate about Crack versus powder Cocaine. We heard a lot about this. Personally and in some of the research I've done, I classify this as a racial discrepancy, personally and I think that even if you bring powder Cocaine up or down, depending on -- make the penalties as harsh, that the law enforcement community still concentrate more on the inner cities. I've never -- I don't think I've heard of a drug bust happening, like someone storming into a suburban kid's house or a college dorm room, but it could happen, I guess.
Christopher -- I forget his last name, but the Chief Prosecutor, he mentioned something about not really wanting to change mandatory minimum sentences. That's not really a surprise because it "makes their job easier" which when you put it that way, it's a little scary to me that making their job easier means getting convictions. That's like John Ashcroft had recently said he wants all prosecutors to go for the maximum penalty, which I can't even begin to say what's wrong with that.
As far as these Level Four inmates go, I was classified as a Level Four inmate and what they do is they rate you on certain things and due to the length of my sentence, you got one through four. It was one, one, one, four. Now, I'm not saying that I'm not a danger to society, but I'm now on an appeals bond right now. Apparently, I was one of the most dangerous inmates in there and now I'm here talking with you good people this evening. And I'm going to be driving down the road in a little while and all that.
So, I think there are some fallacies happening there.
The last thing I want to say is talking about mentally disabled or people with mental disabilities. Actually, the day of my appeal I was in kind of the sub-basement of the New Haven Courthouse -- not my appeal, rather waiting to find out if I would be let out on an appeals bond and there was a man in there who -- it was pretty evident that he had some mental problems and you get to talking and I asked him how long of a sentence he had received and he said he took a plea bargain. It was sometime between five years and ten years. And he began to tell me the details of his case which involved him hearing voices a lot and like literally he would hear a male voice and a female voice with an ongoing commentary basically berating him and saying bad things about him.
And he was on a bus and he had heard a voice start calling him a name and he turned around and attacked the guy behind him. Now, this -- like I said, this guy had mental disabilities. I don't know how true this is, maybe it's just hearsay or whatever, but I said, "well, it seems to me like you should be in some kind of mental institution." Not to -- I wasn't trying to insult him, you know what I mean.
REP. METZ: You're not very smart.
MICHAEL SIVAK: Maybe I didn't put it that way. So, I said, "maybe you need to talk to somebody about this." And I'm like "couldn't you be put under some type of psychiatric care?" And he said that the public attorney that he had received had recommended to him that he just go with the plea bargain because if he was hospitalized it would be some kind of indeterminate sentence where he would never -- no when to get out. So it was better to know that he would be in jail for five years or whatever, but my point is, to answer your question, Representative Metz, is I think a lot of times when people do commit crimes, and they do have mental disabilities, the crime is committed due to the fact that they have a mental disability and you need to look at every case.
The main thing with the justice system is we just need to look at every single instance case person. I mean, there are a lot of people. Everyone seems nice. We're all good people. We're trying to do what we can. So, it's -- I just think we have to look at it that way.
That's all I have to say. Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Thank you. Are there any comments or questions? Representative Lawlor.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And Michael, first I want to say you should be proud of your friends, but more importantly, your mother should be proud of you. I think that's right.
MICHAEL SIVAK: Well, thank you.
DONNA SIVAK: I am.
REP. LAWLOR: And I'm sure people are curious. You know, we've had a couple of conversations over the last few months, etcetera and I'm sure people are saying, I wonder what exactly he did and I know you're not going to say it and I'm not going to go into all the details, but to answer the most obvious question I think people have is that you were involved in a confrontation and the other person involved was a lot bigger than you. And apparently one of the people had been drinking and -- I think you all had been drinking, but --
MICHAEL SIVAK: Yeah, there had been alcohol involved.
REP. LAWLOR: And these guys came out of the bar after you and some of your friends and you, in defense, pulled out, it was probably a bad idea is my commentary, a very small pocket knife and one thing led to another and a guy ended up getting cut in the stomach and that ended up going to court and in the trial you claimed self-defense and that's an all or nothing type situation, you either win or you lose and in this particular case, the jury voted not to go along with the self-defense claim, which left only one option and that was a guilty verdict on an assault first degree, which carries with it a five year minimum mandatory and I think the injustice that people have been talking about, forget about the merits of your case because I certainly don't know exactly what happened, but it sounds as though, from my conversations with a variety of people, that the judge wanted to impose a different sentence and couldn't because of the law. Having heard all of the evidence and listening to all of the testimony, that it was the judge, himself, who was a very experienced and knowledgeable judge, thought that a different sentence would be appropriate and felt he could not impose it in this particular case.
And that is the injustice that everyone's talking about. Not that you should go scott free. I mean I don't know what the rule is. I don't know what really happened, but I think that's the issue we're considering here.
MICHAEL SIVAK: Well, a couple of other things that I kind of thought of was, number one, I didn't know -- I didn't even know what mandatory minimum sentences were and I think I'm a relatively informed individual prior to being involved in the justice system.
When I was offered a plea bargain of three years, which may not seem much better, I didn't know how much time percentage-wise. I didn't know any of the details of how much time you get out and all that.
The other thing I would just like to say that people should keep in mind about mandatory minimums is a jury cannot be informed with cases that carry mandatory minimums which they might think -- for all I could -- they could be like the justice system is always lacking. This kid is going to get a slap on the wrist anyway. That's a possible thing. But the point is not just in my case, in other cases as well. I think that just compounds the fact that the judges don't have the discretion. People generally think they do. I think that can effect a jury a little bit.
JAMES RETARIDES: Can I just ask one question?
REP. DYSON: Sure, go ahead.
JAMES RETARIDES: Mike, you were a prosecutor for how many years?
REP. LAWLOR: Three.
JAMES RETARIDES: Three. Did you ever have a case in front of you where the victim was actually the aggressor, the initiator?
REP. LAWLOR: Yes, I'm sure I did and the point is -- I don't know about this particular case, obviously, other than what you've told me, but it's very plausible and I think ideally we rely on prosecutors to exercise some discretion in cases like this. For whatever reason, they chose not to, but there are a variety of ways to avoid the minimum mandatory if the prosecutor wants to do it, but if they don't, apparently in this case they didn't want to, once the verdict comes in, the judge has no other option and that's really the problem.
You'd like to rely on the prosecutors to exercise some judgment here to change it to a different charge, for example, but that apparently was not the case here.
MICHAEL SIVAK: Just to kind of clear everything up. I think I would say, personally, if I'm to be granted a five year prison sentence, I want it to be based on me. I don't want it to be based on something other than me. That's all, personally. I think everyone deserves that.
And I thank you again. Thank you.
REP. DYSON: Thank you very much. Thanks very much. You guys hang in there now.
MICHAEL SIVAK: Thanks for listening to us.
REP. DYSON: Sure, alright. Good luck to you.
Now, Todd Francini and Kathy Bequary. And is Judi Walters here? Judi Walters and Fanol Bojka. Okay, go right ahead.
TODD FRANCINI: Good evening. Please bear with me as I read this because normally at this time of the hour, I'm usually reading a fiction book or some other type of reading. So please, again, bear with me.
My name is Todd Francini and I'm here with my colleague, Kathy Bequary, representing the Community Renewal Team, Incorporated, CRT.
As a community action agency, we provide social and human services to residents of Hartford and Middlesex Counties. We attend to an audience that is multi-generational serving the elderly through Meals on Wheels to toddlers in our Head Start Program. Most relevant for today's issue, of course, is our Criminal Justice Department and the new programming that we feel maybe a component in addressing prison overcrowding.
CRT has over 20 years experience of providing services to youth, young adults and adults who have been involved in the criminal justice system. We currently operate five programs in residential and day settings from Fresh Start, which is a women's and children's program located in Hartford, Gateway Offender Program, Pathway Alternative Detention Program, which is a residential youth facility for boys ages 10 to 16, two juvenile justice centers, and three alternative incarceration centers throughout the State.
CRT criminal justice program served over 2,315 clients in the year of 2002, equally totaling a number of 35,000 hours of community service throughout the State, which is a staggering amount.
Today's initiative is to talk about Project Craft. CRT has partnered with the Home Builders Institute, HBI, the educational and training arm of a national association of home builders in an effort to create programming that will provide essential services to basically what the State considers Level One inmates, individuals who are ready for release, but remain incarcerated. There are currently 1,500 Level One inmates in our system today.
Project Craft, community restitution apprenticeship focused training is an employment and training program that provides intensive case management to individuals leaving a correctional facility. Service begins prior to leaving the incarceration program and facility and continue well after job placement focusing on everything between reintegration, parenting skills, child support, financial literacy, educational objectives, life skills, housing, transportation, substance abuse counseling, obtaining an i.d., and other wrap around services.
These services are geared to stop the recidivism that plagues our criminal justice system by helping to take down the barriers to making these individuals functioning and contributing members of the community.
Project Craft incorporates a cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT, approach for the delivery of intensive case management services. CBT has been recognized by the State as a best practice model for serving this population.
Continuous diagnostic evaluations of each participant will identify behavioral issues, educational, vocational, social and psycho-social development, as well as assess and assign the intensity of service throughout treatment. The results of these evaluations will allow for an individualized service delivery plan for each participant and will also provide information about the impact of program interventions.
The flexibility of this program will allow for it to operate on two levels. It can serve as a residential program for individuals who need more intensive services or need transitional housing and it can also operate as a day running program for individuals who need less supervision or who have secured housing.
Pre-vocational and vocational services utilize pre-apprenticeship certificate training called PACT to deliver the skills training component of the Project Craft. This component will be implemented on an open skills exit basis with an extended duration of three to five months.
Approximately 25% of the time is spent in classroom, related instruction, and 75% of the time is spent in community service working based learning the intricate classroom learning that work site experience.
The classroom component provides instruction in particular trade skills, care and use of tools, safety, work habits, and fundamental mathematics and communication skills. Performance measures based on this program are operating in other states throughout the country. Eighty percent of the participants who have made it, shall successfully complete the program. Ninety percent of successful completion shall be placed in a vocational employment and apprenticeship training program or be enrolled in vocational, technical or school-based programs.
Seventy-five percent of the clients enrolled in a (inaudible) program for sixteen weeks or more shall show at least a one grade level increase in English and correspondence level -- corresponding grade level increase in math. This is just a brief overview of what the program offers.
The strength of this is in the foundation, a foundation that pulls employer, family and community resources and involvement. HBI has successfully partnered with the U.S. Department of Labor and other organizations around the country and it has been a great success in their efforts.
CRT is well established in the community and has extensive experience in working with this population. The partnership between CRT and HBI is just the beginning. Just last week, CRT convened a meeting with pertinent state agency officials to discuss potential collaboration to meeting the needs of this population, providing essential services to support clients and reduce recidivism, as well as the needs of the State to reduce the number of Level One prisoners in our state and into prison overcrowding.
We have respectfully submitted a detailed packet of information to you folks.
At this juncture, I'd be willing to discuss or address any programmatic areas that you may have.
REP. DYSON: Any comments or questions? If not, thank you.
KATHY BEQUARY: (inaudible-not speaking into a microphone)
REP. DYSON: Are there any other comments or questions? If not, thank you very much.
Judi Walters and Fanol Bojka. That's it. Anybody else here? That was easy. George, are you interested, George.
Well, that concludes our hearing. Thanks, everyone, for being here and appreciate it. Thank you.
(Whereupon, the public hearing was adjourned.)