March 1, 2004
gmh JUDICIARY COMMITTEE 1:00 P.M.
PRESIDING CHAIRMAN: Representative Lawlor
SENATORS: McDonald, Kissel, Cappiello,
Coleman, Daily, Roraback
REPRESENTATIVES: Stone, Farr, Abrams, Berger,
Bernhard, Cafero, Cocco,
Conway, Dillon, Doyle, Fritz,
Giegler, Godfrey, Graziani,
Green, Hamm, Hamzy, Klarides,
Labriola, McMahon, O'Neill,
Peters, Powers, Serra,
(Beginning of public hearing not recorded - the first part of tape 1A has nothing recorded - continues with testimony of Secretary Marc Ryan, already in progress)
SECRETARY MARC RYAN: --- I'm always cognizant of respecting the separations in the branches. So if this bill were to move forward as well as having the indexing, I would defer to the branch on how they would best like to handle that either the way the bill's written or potentially as an automatic increase.
The second portion of the bill that I'd like to discuss is the out-of-state prisoners portion. As many of you are aware, in the budget negotiations last year it was decided that the permanent 500 prisoner out-of-state threshold would be increased to 2,500 for the biennium.
And the current language again, allows an additional 2,000 inmates to be sent out-of-state through fiscal year '05. However, this no longer feasible given the delay in passing the budget, as well as the time and need to really put together a very good RFP. That RFP is now on the street. We are really continuing to pursue out-of-state options here also largely because the 500 or so slots in Virginia will no longer be available.
We're proposing in this bill to essentially remove the sunset of the 2,000 additional inmates going out through 2005 and make it a permanent statutory ability to send 2,500 inmates out at any time.
Commissioner Spada, I believe, will be testifying on the next part of the bill preventing internet sexual exploitation of children. Just very quickly, we have taken a number of steps to address the issue of sexual exploitation of children. We obviously remain very committed to this important issue and seek to provide improved aggressive and meaningful assistance along the way.
This bill would modify current statutes to include enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity and the list of crimes requiring sex offender registration and it proposes to raise the penalties for manufacturing or possessing child pornography, thereby making it a more serious offense to possess a large collection of images.
The bill mandates communication service providers to give full faith and credit to subpoenas and orders of the State and again, I believe the Commissioner, as well as the Chief State's Attorney will be discussing that bill further.
The Criminal Justice Center, there is a proposed repeal of Section 54 of Public Act 03-01 which transferred $2 million from personal services to criminal justice centers. I would note that this repeal is technical nature because the dollars will not be needed in fiscal '05, but we are moving expeditiously forward to ensure that we are building both -- we have a female community justice center on line now and we hope to have a male one on line beginning in the '05-'07 biennium, but this would be a technical change because those dollars would not be needed at this point. There is sufficient bond dollars in the budget to build that male facility.
Medical malpractice reform. This is a proposal that the Governor has made in the past. We think there is a great deal of evidence out there that suggests that one of the root causes of the medical malpractice insurance crisis and the inability of doctors to gain medical malpractice insurance and actually forcing them to retire is rooted in the fact that we do not have a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages. We think it's a very important tool along with other reforms that the study group that the Legislature has put together could do to begin to reduce malpractice insurance costs in the State.
And at that point, I know you are looking for speed here, so I hit the highlights and I'll take any questions you have.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Are there questions? Representative Fritz.
REP. FRITZ: Good afternoon, Secretary Ryan.
SECRETARY MARC RYAN: Good afternoon.
REP. FRITZ: I have a question with regard to Section 6 which is, as you know, the $250,000 cap on non-economic damages. I guess I'm a bit concerned that this is supposed to be a bill implementing the Governor's budget. Therefore, how does this cap on non-economic damages have an affect on the budget?
SECRETARY MARC RYAN: Well, Representative Fritz, generally what we do is we tend to package, in a given year and it changes a bit, but we tend to package the Governor's budget bills that go to each of the implementing committees, not Appropriation or Finance into one bill. And so in a strict sense, you are perhaps right that the bill does not technically implement the budget, but again, we traditionally -- any bills that the Governor would like to support in general in the Legislature, as is his right at the time of the session to do when he presents his budget, we tend to even place those non-budgetary bills usually into the basis of other implementation bills that we have out there.
REP. FRITZ: Having said that, could I ask you a question about economic damages is clearly allocated to people who would have their careers cut short or people who would -- they could estimate how much down the road they would have been paid, etcetera.
Now, if I'm a stay at home mom and I don't have a career, what do I get?
SECRETARY MARC RYAN: Well, obviously, Representative Fritz, we understand that there are a number of people that are opposed to placing a cap on non-economic damages because potentially the amount of economic damage awards may not be there, but I would argue that if you look at the states that have gone down the road of imposing caps on non-economic damages, and OLR, in their 2002 report, as I've referenced in my testimony today, made a very, very compelling case that when you place caps, the increase in the premiums are much, much less than we see here. So it's on the record. The report basically indicated that doctors practicing in states with caps have seen an average increase in their premiums of 12% which I would argue roughly equates to the increase in health care expenditures out there, generally, over the past several years as opposed to states without caps which have seen average increases of 44%.
So at the very least, it illustrates that the caps are an important component in this and I do admit that you could find isolated instances of individuals that may not get large economic awards and they may have opportunities to get non-economic awards here, but I would argue that I believe that the where-with-all of the health care system in our state, from both an affordability standpoint, number one, because malpractice insurance increases are driving, in some measure, and to some degree, a great measure, the cost of our health care system in the State.
But also I'd argue that it is very intrinsic to my view to the quality of the health care system. We're going to have shortages of doctors and we're going to have doctors making different types of decisions if we do not really get our arms what we all know is a critical problem of malpractice insurance crisis and I think there's other evidence, I won't go through it here, but there's other evidence in states that have done this that are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
REP. FRITZ: I would also argue to the contrary because some of it is based on the fact of the type of insurance method that is used in the Insurance Department. When you do a file and use method, as they do in Connecticut, what has happened is, in fact, the caps have had very little effect and some of the increases and this is also in another OLR report have gone up by 19%. Well, in fact, if you use the prior approval, which is certainly something that where you would look at the rate and have the hearing before the rate goes out there, that's where you have the strength often coupled by a cap, but not always coupled by a cap.
And if you want to cite the California example, you have to also look at Proposition 103 and you also have to look at the strength of the Insurance Commissioner out there who has the power to deny, which we don't seem to have here in this state and that's what some of us are trying to do because many of us believe the cap is quick, the cap is easy, but it is not the answer because it's cyclical, because we have never put in place reforms that need to be done in insurance, in health, and in the judiciary.
SECRETARY MARC RYAN: Well Representative Fritz, I appreciate those remarks and I did preface what I said about the cap on non-economic damages to say that it's a part of other reforms that can be made and I think some of the issues you've raised are legitimate and need to be looked at and adopted.
But I do believe there's compelling evidence out there that suggests that non-economic caps are very important and I think regardless of whether we have strength and oversight or authority of an insurance commissioner, does not change the fundamental fact that there is an extremely limited amount of carriers in the State and that, in and of itself, I think points to the fact that non-economic caps are probably needed to at least deal with that issue because no matter how much authority an insurance commissioner may have over year to year increases, if you have a universe of one, two, or three providers throughout your state, you're in real bad shape, I would say.
REP. LAWLOR: Senator McDonald.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you, Secretary and I think my voice matches yours at this moment too.
I had a follow-up question to Representative Fritz's questions. If the $250,000 cap is considered to be just one part of the larger solution, is there any particular reason that the Governor's proposal doesn't address the rest of the solution?
SECRETARY MARC RYAN: Well, by and large, the reason we put this out here is we're aware that there is the workforce that, obviously Representative Fritz is very involved with, to try and deal with some of the other aspects. We thought it was important to the degree that the committee may not go down the road of imposing, of recommending the cap on non-economic damages that we had to have it out there in a bill and this was our way of indicating that the Governor felt very strongly that this was an issue that needed to be dealt with. It doesn't mean that we don't support a myriad of the other ideas out there that could play a very important role, as well.
SEN. MCDONALD: So do you agree that the entire package, whether caps are included or not included, is the entire package that is most important, not any one component of it?
SECRETARY MARC RYAN: Well, I would argue that we need a package for medical malpractice reform, but I would argue that an important component of that package should be non-economic caps.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Other questions? If not, thank you very much.
SECRETARY MARC RYAN: Thank you very much.
REP. LAWLOR: Next is Chief State's Attorney Chris Morano. And once again, just to point out to the members of the committee, we are trying to get through this -- we have 40 minutes left in the first hour and we have 17 persons left to testify. So, keep that in mind in your presentation and in the questions from the committee. It would be greatly appreciated. We're not going to alternate.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER MORANO: Very subtle, Mr. Chairman, very subtle.
REP. LAWLOR: We're not going to alternate. I'm just saying. It doesn't effect you, but it effects other people.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER MORANO: Well, I'll be as quick as I can be and as brief as a lawyer, let alone myself be.
First of all, I appreciate the opportunity to once again appear before you and I'm here on a variety of bills that I will talk about.
I want to touch, first of all, on the first bill, H.B. 5043, which is a massive bill, but one particular section, Section 8 deals with criminal violations against minors. It's laid out there in depth, more depth than I could talk about today, but I can tell you that members in my office that have had to deal with that particular issue have worked closely with the Connecticut State Police and Lieutenant Governor Rell's Office on seeing that this bill addresses some of the issues that were of constitutional concern in the past and I believe that this section in this bill, as it's written, does address those and I would encourage favorable action by the committee.
Now, there are six particular bills I want to talk about briefly today. The first one is H.B. 5293 which deals with AN ACT CONCERNING DUAL ARREST IN FAMILY VIOLENCE CASES. I want to stress, first of all, that the Division of Criminal Justice and myself are extremely committed to dealing with domestic violence cases. We have sought federal money to hire prosecutors. We've sought to build on domestic violence investigations and initiatives that currently exist. We have put new prosecutors in the Milford district, in Windham, and I've added an additional domestic violence prosecutor in Hartford.
We are working with the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence to address this issue in a variety of forms and have a great dialogue with them, which we can talk about later.
Also through the initiatives and leadership of this General Assembly, we've been able to proceed quite rapidly.
If you look back at the 1980's, this matter was often dealt by police officers as a civil matter. They would be called to a location, they would speak to the parties and say, you know what, let's just -- everyone calm down, you guys have to work this out with a little bit of talk amongst yourselves, and they would leave. Obviously, that was a disastrous approach. History has shown that.
It has now evolved today where it is treated as a criminal matter. There are now procedures that provide the criminal justice (inaudible) to put mandatory arrests on the perpetrator and to put that individual in the criminal justice system and that is appropriate.
However, developing to that area, we sometimes now cast the net too broadly. The result is that sometimes true victims of crime, those that are not the primary aggressors, those that are defending themselves or in some way intimidated, are often arrested. My concern is that this creates a chilling effect on those victims and will chill them to report further abuse, thus empowering the abuser.
The time has come to re-examine this issue. And in doing that, I have looked at this bill and talked with members of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence and I've sought the advice of my line prosecutors. This bill covers four areas, four categories in subsection (c) and they are areas that should be looked at by police officers in deciding what to do. However, my concern is a concern that I've expressed as a philosophy in many areas of legislating police action and how they should do their jobs.
Certainly, that should be required in determining probable cause, but these particular four areas go further and would require them to establish other areas and other categories in deciding whether to arrest.
My concern is that this would be fought by defense attorneys who would utilize those four areas in cross-examining a police officer in a prosecution against an abuser. Also, while subsection (c) talks about providing some liability coverage for them, that liability only addresses areas of deciding probable cause, these four factors go beyond that.
In short, I think probably a better approach to this would be to take these factors and to incorporate them into training, which I believe is already mandatory, which probably should be increased in the time that police officers have to be exposed to it. So there should probably be more training for police officers and prosecutors and that these four areas that are mentioned in subsection (b) should be mandated as subjects that should be covered in that training.
I believe by doing it that way, we are achieving the goal that we want and we are not providing fodder for defense attorneys or defendants to utilize in the future. If that does not work, then we should revisit the issue and see about setting some sort of statutory obligations.
Our future efforts in this area, we will continue working with the CCADV. Both the Executive Director Lisa Holden and I are serving together on a committee that is specifically addressing dual arrests. We met last week. As part of that, we will continue to discuss the language that we believe should be enacted into law. We are also seeking grant funding to address the training issues immediately and when I say immediately, we're not waiting until next year, we want to keep doing this throughout the next few months.
The next issue I want to touch briefly on is the bill that is H.B. 5358, a task force on the trafficking of women and I'm going to ask Executive Assistant State's Attorney Judith Rossi, who has sat on that commission to look into that, to briefly speak.
JUDITH ROSSI: Thank you, honorable members of the committee. The H.B. 5358 proposes the creation of a permanent task force to study the issue of trafficking in persons here in Connecticut. The Division of Criminal Justice supports a one year task force to identify and study this issue.
Trafficking in persons is a trans-national crime. It's considered to be one of the most prolific organized crimes after drug trafficking and arms smuggling. The activity of trafficking violates many civil and criminal laws. It also implicates issue of immigration, labor, asylum, re-patriotation, language translation, smugglings, social support systems, etcetera, etcetera.
The United State is a destination country for trafficking in persons and federal law addresses with both the anti-trafficking and anti-smuggling statutes aimed at the movement of human beings across the borders.
U.S. officials work on these issues not only on U.S. soil, but in foreign countries and international organizations. And the Justice Department, in the near future, is going to issue a progress report on the federal efforts and that's something that could be looked at by such a task force.
The members of the study group that led to the recommendation of this bill included representatives from state and federal law enforcement, many victim advocacy groups, civil and human rights advocates, Immigration and academics. None were able to specifically identify a trafficking problem here in Connecticut nor did any victims' group report any contact with victims of trafficking. Nor has the U.S. Attorney's Office in Connecticut conducted any prosecutions for violation of the federal trafficking laws here in Connecticut.
This does not mean that trafficking is not active in Connecticut. It permits the scope of -- the international problem permits the inference that an affluent area like Connecticut and may likely be a destination for trafficking persons, especially for sexual or labor purposes.
So a task force could look at this issue. Again, even the Death Penalty Commission took a year to do its study of that very complicated issue. We feel that having a permanent task force might drag the issue on too long.
A task force should have a very specific agenda and it should include looking at the present state statutes, which cover most issues of trafficking that would incur instate like racketeering, conspiracy, promoting prostitution, child pornography, kidnapping, etcetera. These laws here in Connecticut carry significant penalties.
Fighting the crime of trafficking is another issue task force members could look at.
REP. LAWLOR: I don't mean to cut you off, but we're over ten minutes now. So we're just trying to get through the -- we have seventeen more people to go and we have about one-half hour to do it.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER MORANO: May I finish the remaining bills that we have?
REP. LAWLOR: Are you going to go through all them?
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER MORANO: I've just got four. I'll be very quick.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay.
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER MORANO: The next bill deals with AN ACT CONCERING THE CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY, it's H.B. 5439. Basically, I'll be brief. The laws that exist requires incredible hurdles for the Chief State's Attorney to go into court. I have suggested an alternative to that. I have run it by the thirteen State's Attorneys. They are in agreement and my written comments will state the reasons why.
The next bill -- I'll do two at once, H.B. 5440, AN ACT CONCERNING INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION OF VIOLATIONS OF THE ETHICS CODE and VIOLATIONS OF ELECTION LAW, which is H.B. 5441.
Both of those are part of this office's efforts to get into the area of public corruption in a more aggressive manner. The first bill dealing with the Ethics Code, the language -- it's an ongoing work in progress. Just as recently as this morning, Mr. Plofsky and I have discussed this and we have come up with some language which supplements to the language you have before us. It is in my written comments and I will also be available to discuss that with committee members if they arrive, to that's conclusion, I need to discuss it.
On election laws, I've talked to Mr. Garfield. I'm asking the committee take no action on that bill at this time. However, I would ask the committee to take note of the fact that before a matter can be referred for criminal investigation, there is a public vote at the Elections Enforcement Commission and therefore many times targets can know that law enforcement is going to look at them often before we do and that might be something that we need to look at.
The next bill, H.B. 5442 which deals with the payment of expert witnesses. My written comments go into great detail. The bottom line is that if someone witnesses a crime on the street and they're not an expert witness and they're not a police officer, they may not get paid for their loss wages or their expenses in cooperating with law enforcement. I think that is abysmal. I think that in light of the recognition of the efforts made in witness protection by this General Assembly, we need to address that very simple language to do that. It's in the bill.
And the final bill deals with AN ACT CONCERNING THE TRANSFER TO JUVENILE COURT OF CASES OF CHILDREN CHARGED WITH CERTAIN SEXUAL OFFENSES. Basically, if a child is a juvenile and they can be charged with Sexual Assault in the First Degree and the age description is obvious from those two statutes, under the old law, the discretion was within the prosecutor as to whether to keep them in adult court or move them back. Under current law, a public act, Public Act 01-138 became less discretionary in all areas of the criminal code and in that net of becoming tougher, these particular individuals had been caught up and prosecutors now do not have the discretion to take, in many cases, a defendant who would be best served in the juvenile system where there are treatment facilities and treatment options available for a juvenile that are not available for an adult.
This bill is being put in by the Division of Criminal Justice because I believe it pursues our goal of justice. It is based upon the observations of many of our prosecutors that deal with those situations and many others that have to deal with that.
I would ask you to seriously consider it and specifics are in my written comments.
Finally, I appreciate you raising these bills so that I could speak of them and I appreciate your favorable action on all of them.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Are there questions? If not, thank you very much.
Next is Judge Pellegrino.
JUDGE JOSEPH PELLEGRINO: Good afternoon, Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor. Thank you for allowing us to speak this afternoon. I'm going to share my time with Judge Mintz and I assure you that I will be very brief.
I'm here to support pay raises for judges and family support magistrates as proposed in H.B. 5043. Chief Justice Sullivan and I believe the salary increases are fair and appropriate. If implemented on July 1, 2004, as scheduled in the bill, judges will receive for their first raise since April, 2002 and will not have received a raise for two consecutive years.
The pay raise before you addresses both immediate and long term issues with respect to judicial salaries. In the near term, the proposal provides an 8% increase in each of the next three years. The salary of a judge would increase from $125,000 to $135,000, $145,000 and $157,000 respectively. The bill also increases salaries for family support magistrates in each of the same three years.
These increases would bring judges' and family support magistrates' salaries in line with those of comparable positions in state government and help close the gap with their federal counterparts. I would note that these comparable positions in state and federal government will also receive raises during the next period of time.
In the long term, the bill ties future judges' raises to compensation increases received by the executive branch managers, including both COLAS and any annual increments or performance based merit increases that may be awarded, a combined value generally in the range of 5.5 to 6 percent. These percentages are usually tied to raises received by unionized state employees.
It goes without saying that if the individuals do not receive raises, neither will judges and family support magistrates.
H.B. 5043 also provides for modest increases in the per diem compensation for senior judges, judge trial referees from $200 to $220 per day and for family support magistrates from $180 to $200 per day. These amounts last were increased in 1998.
We need to continue to attract the best legal minds to the bench and retain our experienced judges. I believe this state should do nothing less than to compensate them fairly and adequately.
I'd be glad to answer any questions regarding these provisions after Judge Mintz has an opportunity to speak. Judge Mintz.
JUDGE DOUGLAS MINTZ: Good afternoon, Senator McDonald, Representative Lawlor, Senator Murphy, Senator Stone, Senator Kissel, Representative Farr, and members of the Judiciary Committee.
I still have a soft spot in my heart for the vice-chairs of this committee who never get enough recognition.
My name is --
REP. FARR: (INAUDIBLE-MICROPHONE NOT ON)
JUDGE DOUGLAS MINTZ: Shows you the respect I get. My name is Douglas Mintz and I'm here to testify on behalf of the Connecticut Judges Association in support of increasing compensation of judges and judge trial referees.
I just want to make one note about judge trial referees. Judge trial referees perform a critical function for the judicial branch in that they are available to assist the Superior Court Judges in handling a myriad of cases throughout the year. The branch could not efficiently fulfill its mission without the hard work and dedication of the judge trial referees.
The Association asks you to consider the importance of maintaining a level of compensation to ensure a strong and independent judiciary. We believe that the proposal is equitable as state court judges' salaries lack substantially behind those of many other positions that require comparable education experience and entail a comparable degree of responsibility.
Compared to general jurisdiction trials throughout the United States, Connecticut trial judges rank 38th when the cost of living is considered.
Finally, over 600 state employees currently more than a Superior Court Judge. We understand that when the State is facing fiscal difficulties, the compensation it affords its employees maybe effected. As you know, the salaries of judges and the per diem rate for judge trial referees are set by statute. The State's approximately 200 judges and 70 judge trial referees rely on the Legislature to establish fair levels of compensation. Even if this bill is approved, judges will have gone over 27 months without an increase in compensation and judge trial referees would have gone over five years without a raise in the per diem rate.
I believe that the judges and the judge trial referees have done their part in assisting to resolve the State's budget issues and urge you to approve salary and per diem rate increases for the State's judiciary during the legislative session.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I would be pleased to answer any questions you might have.
REP. LAWLOR: Are there questions? Senator Cappiello.
SEN. CAPPIELLO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Your Honor, Your Honor. I just have a few questions, if I may, comparing what judges make here and how they fair compared to other states.
I have your numbers here with regards to the actual salary and the cost of living adjustments, but do you have the figures on how many other states where the judges are elected and not appointed?
JUDGE JOSEPH PELLEGRINO: No, I don't. I think there are probably more states that are -- I believe more states have an elected judiciary than an appointed judiciary. But I don't have the breakdown.
SEN. CAPPIELLO: What about insurance benefits versus the other states? Do you know how we fair here in Connecticut compared to the other states?
JUDGE JOSEPH PELLEGRINO: No, I don't.
SEN. CAPPIELLO: I'm just trying to get a sense of where we are in the big picture because I know it's difficult to ask us for raises during these fiscal years. We're looking at state contracts that are up, as well, for state employees and I just want to make sure that I have the full understanding before making -- certainly the Appropriations Committee, as well.
JUDGE JOSEPH PELLEGRINO: We certainly can provide you with that kind of information. We have the --
SEN. CAPPIELLO: That would be great. And you one final question, if I could. How many applicants right now do we have, people who are applying to be a judge in the State of Connecticut?
JUDGE JOSEPH PELLEGRINO: I don't know how many are applying, but I believe, and this information is confidential, but I believe there is probably between 100 and 150 on the list who have been already approved.
SEN. CAPPIELLO: Okay. So those who have are approved, not who have applied, with ---
JUDGE JOSEPH PELLEGRINO: I don't have the information as to how many have applied this year. I guess I do have that information. I'll provide that to you.
SEN. CAPPIELLO: Okay.
JUDGE JOSEPH PELLEGRINO: About 40% of them are approved that applied, but I believe there's between 100 and 150 on the waiting list, on the list of those already approved.
SEN. CAPPIELLO: Thank you very much.
REP. LAWLOR: If there are no other -- Representative Farr.
REP. FARR: At the present time, my understanding is there are over 600 state employees that are getting paid more than judges? Is that correct?
JUDGE DOUGLAS MINTZ: Yes.
JUDGE JOSEPH PELLEGRINO: Judge Mintz is --
REP. FARR: And I guess my concern in this area is this whole idea of compression and I understand the Chief State's Attorney gets paid more than a judge does as does the Chief Public Defender and I think that's maybe inappropriate, but my concern is that if I project out the next three years, the State's Attorneys and the Public Defenders are unionized employees, it's my understanding that they get their normal raises, that most of them will probably be making as much as a judge. Is that correct?
JUDGE DOUGLAS MINTZ: I think you're correct.
JUDGE JOSEPH PELLEGRINO: Some of them.
REP. FARR: At the top grade?
JUDGE JOSEPH PELLEGRINO: Yes.
REP. FARR: So that you might have judges who want to leave being a judge and become a State's Attorney or a Public Defender because they get a raise.
JUDGE JOSEPH PELLEGRINO: Could be.
REP. FARR: Thank you .
REP. LAWLOR: Representative Winkler. I just want to point out before -- we've got twenty minutes to go and sixteen people to testify.
REP. WINKLER: Yes, just quickly and thank you, Mr. Chairman. I read a recent report that was distributed on judges' salaries and I thought Connecticut was ranked number fifth in the nation. Is that correct?
JUDGE JOSEPH PELLEGRINO: I think it was eighth, but it may have been fifth, but the chart also says that if you figure in the cost of living, we're number 35. And I think that's what we testified to.
REP. WINKLER: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Further questions? If not, thank you very much.
JUDGE DOUGLAS MINTZ: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Next is Representative Stillman.
REP. STILLMAN: Good afternoon. Sorry, my heels don't allow me to run up to the desk here. I know you're on a time crunch.
I thank you for raising H.B. 5358, AN ACT ESTABLISHING A PERMANENT INTERAGENCY TASK FORCE ON TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS.
Chairmen Lawlor and McDonald and members of the Judiciary Committee, I'm here to present testimony in favor of that bill.
For the past several months, I've been working with a group of individuals representing state law enforcement agencies, the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, community organizations and legislators on a problem that not exists not only around the world, in this country, and probably in this state and that is the issue of the sexual trafficking of women and children.
Recent headlines have called greater attention to this widespread problem of sexual trafficking in the United States and worldwide. The State Department estimates that more than 50,000 people were trafficked into the United States each year. As far as I'm concerned, it's a dirty secret that is swept under the rug and we need to address it.
Traffickers lure desperately poor young women and their families with false promises of money, jobs, and better opportunities abroad. Once in the United States, women find themselves trapped into forced prostitution without money or legal help to escape. Women are also trafficked for forced domestic and sweatshop labor, which often involves sexual violence.
Imagine their horror, they cannot speak English and fear arrest, imprisonment, and deportation to their home country where they likely will be ostracized or punished because of their sexual exploitation.
Efforts to address sexual trafficking should focus on criminalizing the activities of the traffickers who prey on desperately impoverished women and girls rather than on the women who are the victims.
Traffickers should not be allowed to claim alleged consent from their victims as a defense and therefore operate with impunity. As with rape and sexual assault, the focus of prosecution must be on the perpetrators of the exploitation and that is the traffickers.
The State Department believes that here in Connecticut many young women are trafficked from Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand, Russia and the Ukraine, as well.
I'm sure you know there are many mail order bride organizations that reach out to unsuspecting women. As a matter of fact, I've received numerous e-mails from just such companies here on my website at the State of Connecticut.
What can we do as a state legislature? What can we do to help those women and children who need us because we maybe their only recourse? What can we do to make sure that the victims are given the opportunity to escape from the situation we can only imagine? We can start by creating this permanent interagency task force of people with expertise that can develop the documentation of the frequency and scope of trafficking in this state, put programs in place to provide access to services to support the victims who come forward and develop strategies to reduce the barriers faced by trafficked individuals who need assistance.
Working together, we can tackle this growing problem and together we can save the lives of many young women and girls and I hope you will act favorably on the bill that is before you.
REP. LAWLOR: Thanks. Are there questions? Representative Farr.
REP. FARR: Just quickly. A previous comment was a concern about making this permanent. Is there any reason why we have to have a permanent task force? Shouldn't we have something with some timeframes in it?
REP. STILLMAN: Well, it was very much made aware to us that -- I heard the testimony from the State Prosecutor's Office and I do appreciate their support of establishing an interagency task force.
We feel that -- the members of the committee felt that it is a bigger problem that we might be aware of and that giving it some permanency the way we have other task forces in this State, might be of some value. Certainly, a year would be a start. If we needed to go beyond that, we could certainly approach the General Assembly to do that. More importantly, we need to address the issue.
Thank you, Representative.
REP. FARR: Okay, thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Further questions? If not, thank you very much.
REP. STILLMAN: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Commissioner Lantz.
CMSR. THERESA LANTZ: Good afternoon, Co-chairs McDonald and Lawlor and members of the Judiciary Committee. I'm pleased to come before you to address H.B. 5043, as it relates to the Department of Correction. I'd be happy to respond to your questions.
Section One of this bill will amend Section 156 of Public Act 03-06, which was passed during the Special Legislative Session in June, 2003. The language offered in this section will establish our ability to maintain up to 2,500 offenders outside of the State and remove the existing fiscal year deadline that would expire on June 30, 2005.
I support this bill as a needed option to address prison crowding within the Department of Correction.
As you aware, I've recently addressed the issue of prison crowding before committees of cognizance within the General Assembly. On each occasion, I have stressed the importance of a multi-disciplinary system-wide approach to address overcrowding. This approach includes front end strategies, back end strategies and the building of internal capacities to effectively manage crowding within our system.
Out-of-state placement of offenders is another vital option to deal with this issue.
The General Assembly recognized that option when it first passed legislation authorizing out-of-state placement in 1995. In 1999, we contracted with the State of Virginia Department of Correction as a needed and responsible approach to prison crowding which still exists today. There's currently not sufficient and appropriate space to return the 500 offenders housed in Virginia. The Department has had to extensively make use of non-traditional housing to accommodate the crowding in our facilities and only recently have we been able to withdraw from many of these non-traditional housing areas such as gyms, office space, visiting areas, and the like.
I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of the Correctional staff who have admirably responded and managed the increase in that offender population.
As you know, the need to pursue a new out-of-state provider is now more apparent than ever. The Virginia Department of Correction has provided us with formal notice that our contract with them will terminate in October of 2004, which is one year earlier than anticipated. It's my understanding that the Virginia Department of Correction has been forced to terminate the existing contract due to bed space concerns within their system. I find it unfortunate that that contract relationship with the State of Virginia Department of Correction will terminate. Based on my tenure as Commissioner, I've had an excellent relationship with Virginia and our experience has been very positive.
The lessons learned from this experience will help guide us as we pursue any future out-of-state placement contracts. I can assure you that we will strive to procure a provider that will serve our interests of appropriate custody and treatment services for our offender population.
In accordance with provisions of Public Act 03-6, the Department of Correction has prepared and released a request for proposal to solicit government and/or private out-of-state entities to provide housing, programs, and care for up to 2,500 male inmates in minimum increments of 500 offenders.
Bid applications for this request are due on May 3rd, whereupon we will review each bid on its merits and make a determination as to the most suitable providers based on our needs. This RFP is available in our agency website if you are interested in reviewing it.
Thank you for the opportunity. I'd be happy to take any questions.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Commissioner. Just one quick question. Do you have any idea when you'll know whether or not there actually are any other states or private companies that would be suitable to take our inmates?
CMSR. THERESA LANTZ: Probably by the end of this week may know the type because we had requested ---
(Inaudible-tape switched from side 1A to side 1B - some testimony/dialogue not recorded)
CMSR. THERESA LANTZ: --- not to, to be honest with you because I think it creates all - I'd be happy -- well, I would prefer not to share it publicly.
REP. LAWLOR: Alright. Will there come a time when we'll have an opportunity to comment on that before the contract is agreed to?
CMSR. THERESA LANTZ: Oh, absolutely. And as you know, the contract itself -- in order for us to even implement that contract, any contract, it would have to go through CHRO and the Attorney General's Office. Absolutely.
REP. LAWLOR: In your mind, the timeframe for getting all this done is about how long?
CMSR. THERESA LANTZ: As far as the bid --
REP. LAWLOR: Finding out if there is a suitable spot and making the decision to go with another state or a private company.
CMSR. THERESA LANTZ: It would probably -- that's -- it would probably be best if I not try to guess that. I know the bid proposals are in by May 3rd. May 4th, we'll start reviewing it, my staff will. We'll set up a committee, an interagency committee. I'm not sure what kind of a timeframe I'd be looking at because I'm not sure what we're going to get.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. Thank you. Senator Kissel.
SEN. KISSEL: Hi, Commissioner Lantz. Nice to see you again.
CMSR. THERESA LANTZ: Thank you, sir.
SEN. KISSEL: I think it was just what last Thursday or Friday.
CMSR. THERESA LANTZ: I've been here a lot and I appreciate that.
SEN. KISSEL: I guess just the single issue that I have, you and I disagree on the out-of-state placement and I understand that you want the flexibility. But there's certainly substantial amounts of money that flows from our taxpayers out of this state into another economy, into another state's economy when we have this kind of situation. And from what I've gathered over the last few weeks, we have several hundred inmates that are Level One, that if we had a place to send them out in the community, that they could be effectively released as long as there were these support programs. And at the same time, we're spending millions and millions of dollars because we don't have the space to send inmates out-of-state and it strikes me that while October might be too short of a timeframe for us to turn this situation around, it strikes me that the administration needs to think about an exit strategy in that if we could do something, take the money that we would otherwise spend out of state, use it for the support programs in the community, therefore free up space in the correctional facilities by letting those Level One inmates into the community and therefore that would free up the bed space so that we wouldn't need to send prisoner out-of-state, that would solve a lot of problems and I just don't know, what is it going to take to turn this around?
I mean, does one shoe have to fall before another one can fall? Is there any plan? If it takes two years to put this into operation, then let's start planning to do that.
CMSR. THERESA LANTZ: I think we have, Senator Kissel. I think if the Prison and Jail Overcrowding Commission reports makes a number of recommendations, I think the Alternative Incarceration Advisory Committee made a whole slew of recommendations and again, the emphasis here is to not just go after one area. Don't address all of your concerns and issues on reentry, but look at the whole system in all four areas and strategies and I think we are working on that. The Governor's proposed budget calls for a number of options that include what I call the front end solution such as working with probation officers, improving them, enhancing jail re-interview. It looks at back end reentry strategies such as procuring more halfway house beds, looking at domestic violence, non-residential slots, looking at more mental health services.
And so we've already done, as you are well aware, we've already done one of the four strategies and that is what I call the bricks and mortar and/or building. And I'm really here with the other advisory committees that I happen to Chair really here to emphasize that it is a broad spectrum approach in how we deal with the issues of crowding because one approach in dealing with it may not give us what we need to fully effectuate a reduction, an appropriate placement of offenders where they should be whether through incarceration or in the community so that we can really look at public safety as our overriding goal, and look at all the options that we have available and the out-of-state placement is another viable, vital option that I have, that we have as a state, to address the issue of overcrowding.
SEN. KISSEL: Thank you very much.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Are there any other questions? Thank you very much, Commissioner.
CMSR. THERESA LANTZ: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Next is Gail Sturges.
GAIL STURGES: Good afternoon, Senator McDonald, Representative Lawlor, and distinguished members of the Judiciary Committee.
I'm Gail Sturges, Director of Forensic Services for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. I'm here today to speak in support of H.B. 5218, AN ACT CONCERNING DETERMINATION OF COMPETENCY TO STAND TRIAL AND ELIGIBILITY FOR CIVIL COMMITMENT, which corrects an unintended error in the language of 54-56d, as it was revised last session.
Last year's revision was intended to create a second option for the court once it determined a defendant incompetent to stand trial. While no change was made to the court's ability to commit the defendant for treatment to restore competence, the revision did provide the court with an alternative option of finding the defendant incompetent and committing him or her to DMHAS for the purpose of civil commitment, which would result in a suspended prosecution similar to accelerated rehabilitation.
H.B. 5218 changes an "or" to an "and" in order to address what is a two-part inquiry, not an "either or inquiry" as it currently reads. The examiners performing the court ordered competence to stand trial evaluation must first determine whether the incompetent defendant is restorable to competence and if so, whether the defendant appears to be eligible for civil commitment under this new treatment option.
Regarding the first prong, if the incompetent defendant were not restorable, he or she would not be eligible for the program because another subsection of the statute applies.
And regarding the second prong, even if the incompetent defendant is restorable, if the person is unwilling or unable to be civilly committed, he or she would not be eligible for the program.
H.B. 5218 would provide the necessary language correction since the intent of the statute, as revised, was to have the examiners determine that both prongs are satisfied, that is, that a defendant is both restorable to competence and appears to meet civil commitment criteria. This bill also has the support of the judicial branch.
Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee today. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
SEN. MCDONALD: Representative Farr.
REP. FARR: Is your testimony then that nobody is able to use it as it now?
GAIL STURGES: We are able to use it because we're interpreting the goal of the examiners as it was intended to be a two-part inquiry.
REP. FARR: Okay. So you --
GAIL STURGES: We would just like --
REP. FARR: -- instead of our words.
GAIL STURGES: Yes.
REP. FARR: Okay, thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Any other questions? Thank you very much.
GAIL STURGES: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: The next speaker is Susan Cogswell and then we are going to move to the public list. Good afternoon, Commissioner.
CMSR. SUSAN COGSWELL: Good afternoon, Senator. Good afternoon, Senator McDonald, members of the Judiciary Committee.
My name is Susan Cogswell. I am the Insurance Commissioner for the State of Connecticut.
I'm here today to speak to you about the Governor's bill before you. The Connecticut Insurance Department supports Section 6 of H.B. 5043 instituting a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice insurance.
One standard is common in states where we have seen medical malpractice market stabilize. Those states have implemented a cap on non-economic damages. A cap and overall tort reform are needed to achieve the market's stability and reduce premiums.
Currently, CMIC, Pro-Select, Medical Protective, PPIC are the only Connecticut licensed writers of physicians and surgeons medical malpractice liability insurance. The Department has surveyed companies that write medical malpractice in other states, but not here in Connecticut. These carriers indicate that their willingness to provide that product in any given state depends on the overall insurance and socio-economic environment of the state and their ability to control expenses.
In addition, the re-insurance market is also getting tighter. The Department found that re-insurance companies offering medical malpractice re-insurance in other states would not offer the coverage for insurers writing medical malpractice insurance here in Connecticut. The primary insurers and re-insurers that we have spoken to advised us that meaningful tort reform, similar to that of California's MICRA, enacted in 1985, including caps on non-economic damages is needed.
The reason we are here today is the concern that patients' access to necessary medical care in Connecticut is at risk. The increased cost and decreased availability of medical malpractice insurance has resulted in physicians discontinuing certain high risk procedures, leaving the State and abandoning their practices. Connecticut must adopt policies that will the market here more attractive to both primary insurers and re-insurers.
The Connecticut Insurance Department continues to endorse reasonable caps on non-economic damages. Because we've seen over time that the caps have served to stabilize markets.
Thank you for your time and I'd be happy to answer any questions.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Are there any questions? I'm sure we're going to have another opportunity to have a more thorough discussion of this.
CMSR. SUSAN COGSWELL: I can tell by the smiles that no one was surprised why I was here today.
SEN. MCDONALD: And we give you credit for jumping into the (inaudible).
CMSR. SUSAN COGSWELL: Thank you. I'd be happy to work with you to come to reasonable reforms that will improve the market here. Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you, Commissioner. We're going to now alternate between the people who are listed on the public sign-up list and the remaining department heads list.
So the first speaker is Mary Ellen Ladd, followed by Natasha Pierre.
MARY ELLEN LADD: Good afternoon.
SEN. MCDONALD: You forgot somebody.
MARY ELLEN LADD: Yes, there's another little one that I'm here to talk about and he's making laps around the building.
SEN. MCDONALD: We'll keep an eye out.
MARY ELLEN LADD: My name is Mary Ellen Ladd. My son, Peter is 2-1/2 years old. He has cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder and a gastronomy tube in his stomach because of feeding difficulties.
At 2-1/2 years old he is unable to roll over, talk, eat, sit, or hold onto objects. He needs adaptive equipment, including very expensive feeding chairs, strollers, standers and walkers. My living room looks pretty much like a gym with all the equipment that we have.
For tube feeding, Peter requires special medical equipment and a nutritional supplement that was recently changed due to the severe reflux problems that he has and it costs over $900 a month. Most of his supplies are not covered by our insurance plan.
Peter's reflux is so severe that he requires daily medication for it and still spits up and throws up two and three times a day.
He has five therapy appointments every week and is treated by five medical specialists.
We believe that his birth injuries were caused by the negligence of the two doctors who were involved in his delivery. Obvious warning signs were ignored and as a result, Peter has a lifelong disability. Doctors are calling for caps on non-economic or pain and suffering damages. They say that $250,000 is enough to compensate Peter for a lifetime of limited abilities and extraordinary challenges. They say that a cap is fair because injured patients will still be paid for economic losses like medical expenses. But capping non-economic losses is severely limiting and discriminatory to children, as well as to many women and the elderly because children are not wage earners.
Non-economic losses are not just about pain and suffering. They are about compensation for a permanent disability and how disability impacts a person's quality of life, our whole family's quality of life. And they are about accountability for negligence.
Everyone needs to pay attention to what caps really mean to the thousands of people out there who are going to be the victims of medical malpractice in the years ahead. If you could visit our home and see what life after medical malpractice is really like on a daily basis, I can't imagine that you would ever impose a $250,000 cap.
We need to continue to make negligent doctors accountable for their actions. Hospitals and doctors must enact the kinds of system reforms that have been shown to prevent medical error. Five percent of doctors nationwide commit over half of all malpractice. Why are they still practicing?
Legislators must act not to limit victims' rights, but to require the medical community to reduce medical error and be accountable for their malpractice.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much, Mrs. Ladd and thank you for sharing your family's story with us.
Are there any questions from members of the committee? Thank you very much.
MARY ELLEN LADD: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Next is Natasha Pierre, followed by Jennifer Manganello.
NATASHA PIERRE: Good afternoon, Senator McDonald and members of the committee. I'm Natasha Pierre. I'm the Associate Legislative Analyst for the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and I have Susan Hoover here who is our Special Projects Director and she's going to testify after I do about the trafficking bill.
We are here in support of several bills before you, H.B. 5292, AN ACT CONCERNING THE REDUCTION OF DISPORPORTIONATE MINORITY REPRESENTATION IN THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM; H.B. 5294, AN ACT CONCERNING A JUVENILE JUSTICE PLAN FOR GIRLS; H.B. 5297, AN ACT CONCERNING THE NEEDS OF JUVENILE JUSTICE STATUS OFFENDERS, and the bill that would provide for dual arrests, but I will allow you to read our written testimony for that.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you.
NATASHA PIERRE: I am just going to address the Governor's recommendation which is Section 6 of H.B. 5043 about non-economic damages. As I'm sure you've heard us testify before, we are strongly opposed to caps on non-economic damages. There is considerable evidence that caps on non-economic damages will disproportionately effect women injured by medical malpractice and will not solve the problem by leading to a reduction in premiums.
Empirical research conducted by law professor Lucinda Finley on gynecological malpractice cases, over the past ten years in California and Florida, it shows that non-economic damages comprised approximately 75% of women's total awards. The reason is that the harm suffered by women in these cases include impaired fertility or sexual functioning, miscarriage, incontinence and disfigurement of intimate areas of the body. And these consequences, while very significant, are not directly related to economic losses.
Finley concludes that capping non-economic damages will have a discriminatory impact on women patients that will be the greatest when women experience the most profound sort of harm to their sexual and reproductive lives.
Moreover, there's empirical evidence that caps on damages do not lead to lower premiums.
The Program Review and Investigations Committee reported that if a $250,000 cap was instituted, as proposed in this bill, actuaries cite a possible, a possible 10% reduction to rate increases for one year.
And I'll close on that and let Susan talk about the trafficking bill.
SUSAN HOOVER: Thank you very much. I'll be brief. I'm here to speak in favor of establishing the Permanent Interagency Task Force on Trafficking in Persons.
Many of you probably have seen stories in print and on television providing detailed and tragic stories about girls and women who are trafficked around the world.
Last fall, Representative Stillman convened a study committee. One thing was very clear, we don't have a lot of information and we believe that this task force can help us gain that information.
This task force would create a working group that will work to improve strategies to identify and prosecute traffickers as well as to identify and assist victims. They will develop training materials for local and state police. They will promote community education to assist local organizations in reaching out to victims, many of whom are underground and invisible to law enforcement agencies, as well as to organizations that serve victims.
We know that Connecticut has a number of entry points for traffickers. We have three ports. We have interstate highways, and an international airport. We urge you to support this proposal to create this task force as a first step toward eliminating the trafficking of women and children in this state.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. Representative Winkler.
REP. WINKLER: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And good afternoon and I'd like to thank you for coming to testify on this trafficking legislation that was spearheaded by Representative Stillman.
I was in Washington last weekend at the National Foundation of Women Legislators and they had mentioned at that time that there were four states that have legislation in place dealing with this issue and Connecticut has always been in the forefront on many issues like this. And I thank her and you for being supportive.
SUSAN HOOVER: Thank you. If I could just make one comment. One of those states has a really has impressive model that has all different kinds of agencies sharing information and collaborating in solving some of the problems for victims who often are invisible.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Senator Cappiello.
SEN. CAPPIELLO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your testimony, I appreciate it.
Just one question from a woman's perspective. There are issues that you brought up regarding medical malpractice. One of the issues that I've heard a number of times is that OB-GYN's are affected disproportionately compared to other physicians in the State and some of us are concerned that eventually there will not be physicians who become OB-GYN's and the ones that do, will stop delivering babies because they just can't afford the malpractice insurance.
Do you think that that is a significant issue to the women in the State and if you do, what do you think we should do about it?
NATASHA PIERRE: Yes, we do. And actually if I was able to read the whole thing, you would have heard that. We've been meeting with the OB's over the summer trying to come up with some solution that is suitable. We also met with the Trial Lawyers once and we agreed with them on a lot of other areas, but we just could not come into agreement with the caps. But there are other ways to regulate the industry, either the insurance industry or regulate physicians. There are several proposals out this year to have some patient funds to try to help physicians pay for their medical malpractice premiums and some alternatives too to try to address some part-time workers and trying to -- right now, if somebody is a part-time worker, they really -- it's not affordable for them to get insurance premiums because they go by the number of births rather than like a 20 hour work week.
So we've been talking with all of those to come up with some areas we all agree on, but that's been some of them. There's also some in the area of litigation where both parties would have to provide a certificate of good faith before they even started the process.
So there are some mechanisms, but we just don't -- from all that we've read, a possible 10% reduction in a year, that's not enough to cap economic damages. So we're trying to look at the big picture.
SEN. CAPPIELLO: And I appreciate that. The other things you are working on, you're discussing and that you agree on, is there any empirical data that shows that that will reduce malpractice insurance costs? You do agree with the OB-GYN's?
NATASHA PIERRE: We haven't gotten that far. At the time, there was much discussion. Nobody had anything on paper and since session has started, we have not had an opportunity to sit back down and review the bills together. We've been swapping it from agencies, but we have not been able to have that discussion again.
SEN. CAPPIELLO: Okay, thank you.
NATASHA PIERRE: You're welcome.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. Representative Winkler.
REP. WINKLER: Yes, thank you. Just quickly. And thank you for testifying. I don't know if you heard Representative Fritz's comments. She had felt that tort reform was also a major part of the legislation, which I do agree.
And I agree with some sort of a cap. What amount, I'm not sure. But I just have to mention that technology over the years has improved tremendously, that we are saving babies that were born years ago that would have died, that when they're born today, preemies that are a little over a pound and they're surviving. However, they have multiple problems and I don't look at that as being malpractice, but unfortunately, I think it is being looked at as malpractice today.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. And thank you for your testimony.
I should just mention for everybody that we do have a number of speakers. We have seventy speakers still to come. So please try to keep your comments to three minutes and if you see me cutting you off, please don't take it personally.
The next speaker is Jennifer Manganello, followed by Deborah DelPrete Sullivan. Good afternoon and welcome.
JENNIFER MANGANELLO: Thank you. Good afternoon. Hello?
SEN. MCDONALD: Yes, we can hear you.
JENNIFER MANGANELLO: Alright. Hi. My name is Jennifer Manganello. I became significantly disabled following a spinal fusion five years ago. Because my case is still in litigation, I cannot discuss the details of the surgery.
I was fifteen years old at the time. As a result, I had suffered permanent neurological damage. I am primarily wheelchair dependent with poor endurance.'
As a result of the surgery, which was supposed to be routine, I had nerve damage in several regions of my spine. Because of that damage, I have a neurogenic bladder causing multiple urinary infections and reflex from high pressures into the kidneys. Complications have intensified and I have been diagnosed with end stage renal disease. Dialysis will begin within the next two months.
Since my original surgery, I have had seven hospital stays, including two for severe depression. I will never run again or dance or work after school, never mind attending school on a regular basis.
The first five months following my surgery were spent away from my family and friends in a rehab hospital. My loneliness and pain were often difficult to express. It seems that every major event or holiday I was either ill or in the hospital.
How can you begin to put a value on what has been stolen from my future? It takes every ounce of energy to just get myself dressed in the morning, but doctors and insurance companies want to put a value of $250,000 on what has been stolen from my life.
At this point, I am unemployable and cannot manage independent living. I am a prisoner in my own body. And there is no escape.
Who will be there for me in the years to come? I cannot depend on my family forever. It's absolutely wrong to try to solve this problem of medical malpractice rates by limiting the rights of patients like me. It's a complex issue and people making decisions about it need more information about the variations in individual cases, especially cases like mine. For me, non-economic damages may make the difference between a future with some quality of life and one of a small existence in a tax supported care setting.
Thank you for listening.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much, Jennifer. And are there any questions from members of the committee? Thank you very much for your testimony. We wish you the best of luck.
JENNIFER MANGANELLO: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Next is Deborah DelPrete Sullivan, followed by Gus Valez.
DEBORAH DELPRETE SULLIVAN: Good afternoon. Thank you for this opportunity to testify before you.
My name is Deborah DelPrete Sullivan. I'm legal counsel to the Office of Chief Public Defender. There are actually seven bills. We've submitted written testimony for from the Office of Chief Public Defender, but I would just like to highlight a few of those bills, if I may.
Raised H.B. 5293 regarding dual arrests in family violence cases. After our office read this through, we raised the concern that it's not clear that an individual, the second individual maybe arrested based on probable cause. The way this was written, it appears that the officer may make an arrest based upon the subjective criteria that is listed in that bill.
So we're opposing this bill and asking if the committee is going to pursue looking at this because I believe the intent is not to have more arrests, but to actually look at the situations. Perhaps that language could be clarified.
In regard to H.B. 5296 regarding a sexual assault services trust fund. The Office of Chief Public Defender is not opposed at all to that concept, but we do ask that the proposal contain a provision that would permit the court to waive or remit the mandatory fine if the court finds that the person so convicted is actually indigent.
Raised H.B. 5297, the Office of Chief Public Defender is not opposed to the provision of treatment in services, but there are two concerns within that bill. The first is that the bill provides that statements made by the child during the screening and assessment may not be used against the child in any subsequent proceeding in regard to the petition. And so we're asking also that that language be in regard to any juvenile proceedings because there are occasions when a juvenile maybe on both sides of the juvenile court, both in a delinquency proceeding as well as the family with service needs side and we're asking that so that they would not have a statement that was made with the intent to get services then be used against them in a juvenile delinquency proceeding.
Also, under subsection (c) of the bill, it talks about graduated sanctions and we're asking that that that language be deleted because the term "sanction" infers some type of a punishment which would be inconsistent with what this bill seems to be doing, which is providing more services and treatment for children.
In regard to H.B. 5357 regarding sexual assault restraining orders, the Office of Chief Public Defender does oppose this proposal because it does not provide the respondent with notice of the granting of an ex-parte restraining order, a right to a hearing at which the respondent would be afford a reasonable opportunity to be heard. I think it's just the way the language is actually framed. I've submitted written testimony on this. It appears that the applicant must provide notice to the respondent of any hearing and ex-parte order that is entered, but that ex-parte order may be entered today and perhaps a respondent does not get notice for another day or so or longer and so the question would then be, is that respondent subject to that restraining order if they have no notice of it?
The other issue, of course, is that since a violation of such would be punishable by incarceration up to a year because it's classified as an A misdemeanor, the issue then becomes that that person should have due process and should be able to have an opportunity to be heard.
We support H.B. 5444 and in regard to H.B. 5043, I've submitted written testimony about the administrative subpoena. As you know, in years past, we've always, our office has always opposed the investigative subpoena. We oppose this provision. It's Sections 18 through 23 of the Governor's bill. We have notified the Governor's office of that, as well and we have contacted the State Police. We do want to speak with them and meet with them. There may be a way to look at this language and come to some type of agreement.
And I thank you for your time.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. Are there any questions? Thank you very much.
DEBORAH DELPRETE SULLIVAN: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Next is Gus Valez, followed by Major Tim Prembach, I believe.
Good afternoon, Mr. Valez.
GUS VALEZ: Good afternoon, gentlemen. I'm here today because two years ago I was a young man with a promising future as a financial analyst and an upcoming marriage. Then I was dealt with a terrible blow that will change my entire life.
I had an inflamed colon and agreed to undergo minimal evasive surgery to correct it. It was supposed to be routine. I would be and out in a few days. But the doctor made a horrible blunder. During the surgery, the doctor sewed my aorta, the main artery in my body, stopping blood flow from both of my legs. As a result, that catastrophic error, both my legs had to be amputated above the knee.
In medical terms, it's an aortic transaction with results in bilateral transform amputation, translated, this means I have lost two legs and I am confined to a wheelchair.
What happened to me cannot be said in one sentence. The implications of all these events fill pages.
My fiancé has become the main breadwinner. I want to work again, but I doubt I will. I'm able to do no more than part-time for quite a while. Physical therapy is a lot harder than anything I did on the rugby field.
The pain is ongoing and excruciating at times.
SEN. MCDONALD: Take your time.
GUS VALEZ: My fiancé, my family has been affected. My brother, sister had a restaurant that my father financially committed to. When the focus of my family became my disability and needs, they closed the restaurant and they had to suffer financially. They all got pretty depressed because they wanted to help me, to change the outcome of what had happened to me and, of course, they could not.
I am here to tell people what happened to me because I want the public to know that we have health care professionals that are incompetent and a system that fails to do nothing about it today. Today, you are considering a $250,000 cap of non-economic damages. Take caps off the table for once and for all and make sure these immoral doctors do not practice in the State of Connecticut.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Valez. Are there any questions from members of the committee? Thank you for your testimony, sir.
Next is Major Tim Prembach, I believe, followed by Tim Norbeck. Good afternoon.
MAJOR TIM PREMBACH: Good afternoon. Chairman McDonald, committee members. I'm going to be brief as well. You've heard -- I'm here to speak in favor and on behalf of H.B. 5043, specifically Section 8. And that is the piece dealing with stopping internet child exploitations.
For the record, my name is Major Tim Prembach and currently I'm with Public Safety and oversee the Division of Scientific Services which encompasses our computer crime lab and Computer Crime Unit.
For probably three to four years we've had sought some legislative initiatives and last year we listened well to some of the criticisms. What you have before you today, we hope addresses those criticisms, most specifically Connecticut Civil Liberties Union last year expressed their concerns with the virtual image component to this bill and we listened to that as well as the Supreme Court in their Ashcroft decision and therefore, if you look at the language now, we removed all the components of virtual images from our child pornography statute that we're seeking.
Secondly, I'd like to publicly thank Attorney Richard Taff, also working for you in the committee. He brought of a lot of issues forward and many of them were potential constitutional issues and we believe that we have now fairly well addressed those in this proposal before you.
In summary, what we're trying to do here is to update, and in may ways, for the first time forward, go ahead with the child pornography bill stopping internet child exploitation and in what we're doing is looking to make it easier for police to investigate these crimes. We're doing it through increasing penalties. We're also doing it through a limited subpoena power. We just heard testimony from the Public Defenders and they were concerned. I would gladly meet with them, but I would also like to say that to call their concern, what we are not seeking is an investigative subpoena power. We're merely seeking administrative subpoena power and the big critical difference is we are only looking for subscriber information. We are absolutely not looking for contact and are well aware of the fact that we will and must still go ahead with a normal search warrant process and go before the court.
That's not going to change. Again, this is not a content base, by any stretch of the imagination.
Later on also I believe you'll hear testimony on S.B. 511 where they're also seeking the same type of administrative subscriber information and we would support that, as well.
I guess having said that, I would gladly answer any of the specific questions about the bill.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Are there any questions from members of the committee? Thank you very much.
MAJOR TIM PREMBACH: You're welcome.
SEN. MCDONALD: Tim Norbeck, followed by Representative Bacchiochi.
TIM NORBECK: Senator McDonald, Representative Lawlor, and distinguished members of the Judiciary Committee. I'm Tim Norbeck, Executive Director of the Connecticut State Medical Society representing over 7,000 physicians.
I'm here to testify in support of Section 6 of H.B. 5043.
For three years now, physicians have sought medical liability reform to stave off the access to care crisis upon us. This crisis has cost Connecticut residents access to mid-state hospitals, most skilled vascular surgeons, trauma services at Day Kimball Hospital; 21% of Connecticut's physicians providing Medicaid; 38% of physicians providing pro bono care; 20% of the State's obstetricians and procedures such as lumbar punctures, mammograms, esophogo-gastrectomies, or first rib re-section.
As a result of this crisis, Connecticut residents wait longer to see specialists. Expectant mothers wait longer to receive prenatal care and critically injured northeastern Connecticut residents have to be taken to Massachusetts for care.
Many physicians in Connecticut struggle to find insurance coverage at any cost. And our most skilled physicians, who perform the most complex procedures, are being required by their carriers to limit the types of services they can perform.
Our health care system is in crisis. To save it, we must start with what is proven to work, a reasonable limit on non-economic damages. There are only six states that are neither in a crisis nor at risk of being in one. These states all have one thing in common, a reasonable limit on non-economic damages.
As a society, we've decided limits on damages are appropriate for the airline industry and railway companies because affordable transportation is critical to society. On the state level, we have placed limits on damages through our workers' compensation system to ensure the viability of employers. Yet when it comes to our health, the one thing that is absolutely critical to each and every one of us, we have no measures to protect patients' access to care. It is essential to our society to maintain a health care system that has the ability to care for our critically injured, chronically ill, and the innocent newborns just entering the world.
In addition to establishing limits for non-economic damages, we must reform our liability system to strengthen our good faith certificate; create a mandatory pretrial screening panel; lower the offer of judgment interest and require the proper discovery prior to such offer' ensure plaintiffs receive the lion share of their awards and allow periodic payments for damages in excess of $200,000.
I urge the members of this committee to support the solution before you today as the first step in a foundation for resolving this crisis.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. Any questions from members of the committee? Representative Hamm.
REP. HAMM: Thank you, Doctor.
TIM NORBECK: Actually, I'm not a physician.
REP. HAMM: What suggestions do you have that will minimize medical mistakes and have the industry police their profession a little better?
TIM NORBECK: Well, we work with the Hospital Association and the Department of Health and we certainly favor and support increasing -- making the Medical Examining Board independent, giving it as many investigators as it thinks it needs. Please remember that any payment made on behalf of a physician by an insurance company, that information goes to the Department of Health. They look at it very carefully at some of the cases they think may stand out and then they go and investigate it, talk to the physician and if they believe it is warranted, then they will recommend to the Medical Examining Board that it take some kind of action with the license. We do not control the licensing procedure. We want to work -- I think in the airline industry, and I'd -- if you don't mind and I won't take very long, but I just want to quote something from the Institute of Medicine Report. "Fear that information from reporting mechanisms will be used to prepare a lawsuit against them even if they are not negligent, deters physicians and hospitals from making reports. This fear is understandable in the current litigation climate. Fixing these problems requires putting patients and doctors, not lawyers and courtrooms, at the center of a report system." And we certainly support those kinds of efforts.
No one wants a bad, a so-called bad doctor out there, but some people, I think, believe that someone is a bad doctor merely because that doctor may have been sued or may have been sued more than a few times. We have to remember there are a lot of high risk procedures being done and with medical technology the way it is, a lot of lives are being saved, but it is becoming very tenuous, some of these operations.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Representative Peters, did you have a question?
REP. PETERS: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. We've been talking about this issue, both in the last session and again in this session and we've heard both sides of the story and it certainly is a complicated situation, but one question. Do you have any evidence that a cap, be it $250,000 or what have you, would reduce the premium costs to the doctors?
TIM NORBECK: Well we do. In fact, Representative Peters, in Texas there was a reduction achieved of 12%. We are going to be discussing a bill on Thursday which will actually put forth a cap of -- a total cap of $750,000 - $250,000 for the physician, $500,000 for the institution. So actually, a $750,000 cap, but in our legislation that we are going to propose on Thursday that we will be discussing with the Insurance Committee, we believe that there will be an opportunity to see reductions of 15 to 20 percent of the premiums.
REP. PETERS: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. Representative Graziani.
REP. GRAZIANI: Thank you, Mr. Chair. One of the concerns that I have in the medical community is that I know the doctor and the patient are supposedly joined at the hip, so to speak, for a better analogy, but my concern is that there might be some doctors of physicians who knows that they're going forward with their risky procedure that might not undertake that procedure in the back of their mind fearing that they know that there is a very likelihood that ultimately if something goes wrong, they would be sued. Therefore, the patient, in my estimation, would be denied their privileges just because the doctor, in the back of his mind, is saying you know what, I really don't want to undertake that.
Do you think there's any credence to that?
TIM NORBECK: I think you raise a very good point. Absolutely. In fact, we've heard from many orthopedic surgeons who have said they are steering away from back surgery because they're so fearful that it is so risky and their insurers have also said that if you avoid back surgery, if you avoid the really risky things, we will lower your premiums.
And I think that what we have to remember too is -- and what is really glaring now, I think, in Connecticut is the fact that Day Kimball Hospital is now transferring patients to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts and the reason I mention that is I remember the West Virginia case where a small boy was injured playing football, a head injury and he had to be airlifted to Pittsburgh because the neurosurgeon had moved across the Ohio River to Ohio where they could afford the premiums.
I'm also mindful of the ---
(Inaudible-tape switched from side 1B to side 2A - some testimony/dialogue not recorded)
TIM NORBECK: --- because they couldn't find obstetricians to man it. And she could not go into her hospital and ended up -- she was pregnant, ended up giving birth by the side of the road. And then I remember and if you'll forgive me, I remember in Nevada where there was a tourist who could not get trauma services because the hospital had closed that unit down and that person died and with the Day Kimball situation imploding, we are very fearful, as I know all of you are, that that could happen. But I think your point is very well taken.
The really risky cases -- of course, a neurosurgeon, everything a neurosurgeon does practically is risky, but obstetricians, as well, on really risky births. The cerebral palsy cases, if you will, are a terrible tragedy for everybody, but scientific surveys have shown anywhere from 90 to 94 percent of the time, as tragic as it is, and we've seen evidence of this, obviously today, as tragic it is, 90 to 94 percent of those cases really did not any problem during labor. It happened well before and did not involve negligence. Yet your heart goes out to these cases. And certainly the juries. And maybe there should be some fund available for those that are not injured due to negligence, but have a terrible situation. It is just heartrending.
REP. GRAZIANI: Thank you for your response.
TIM NORBECK: I'm sorry to have gone to long on the response to your question.
REP. GRAZIANI: You can never go too far on an issue like this.
TIM NORBECK: Thank you. Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. Any other questions? Thank you for your testimony.
TIM NORBECK: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Next is Representative Bacchiochi, followed by Lisa Holden.
REP. BACCHIOCHI: Good afternoon, honorable co-chairs, vice chairs, ranking members, and esteemed members of the Judiciary Committee. I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify today on an issue that is of great importance to me and to many other Connecticut citizens who may not be able to testify themselves.
I am here in support of raised H.B. 5355, AN ACT CONCERNING THE MEDICAL USE OF MARIJUANA. If this bill passes in Connecticut, we will join nine other states in supporting our seriously ill citizens and protecting them from arrest, fines, court costs, property forfeiture, incarceration, probation, and criminal records.
To be effective, a medical marijuana bill must remove criminal penalties for people who use, possess, and grow marijuana with their doctor's approval. Removing criminal sanctions is at the core of all effective medical marijuana legislation. This bill is not about legalization. It is about removing the threat of state prosecution.
Raised H.B. 5355 is similar to legislation that has been successfully implemented across the country. The legislation before you clearly outlines the responsibilities of the doctor, qualifying patient, and primary caregiver regarding marijuana usage and the State's administrative expectations. The bill also clarifies issues for law enforcement officials and outlines whether a person meets the criteria for a medical marijuana defense or not.
If a person is growing or using marijuana and has a written recommendation from a physician, the officer can choose not to arrest that patient or caregiver. If the officer feels that the person does not have suitable documentation, they can arrest the person and let the courts decide. It should be no more confusing than determining if someone is drinking alcohol under age, if a person is on probation, if someone is the legal owner of a piece of property, or if a person is a legal immigrant or not.
But what is not so clear, and this is the difficult part to convey, is how the passage of this law works in conjunction with federal law. Keep in mind that marijuana was legal for all uses until 1937. By the time the federal government implemented the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, medical marijuana use seemed forgotten and marijuana was, in my opinion, mistakenly placed in Schedule One, defining it as having no currently accepted medical use, which is just wrong.
Because of its Schedule One status, doctors cannot write a prescription for it without breaking the law. This is the problem with the 1981 legislation that was passed here by the Connecticut General Assembly. Doctors do not want to risk sanctions by writing a prescription and pharmacies are not allowed, under federal law, to dispense marijuana. So while the intent of our Legislature in 1981 was compassionate and recognized the medical usage of marijuana, the technical aspects have not worked out.
Again, I point out to you that our Connecticut Legislature did have the intent of allowing medical marijuana usage more than twenty years ago. So that leads us to today's legislation and the question, how can we protect a doctor's ability to recommend marijuana to suffering patients and avoid prosecution for doctors, patients, and primary caregivers? The answer is before you in raised H.B. 5355, which recognizes the fact that no federal law mandates that states must enforce federal laws against marijuana possession or cultivation. States are free to determine their own penalties or lack thereof for drug offenses.
State governments cannot directly violate law by giving marijuana to patients, but states can refuse to arrest patients who grow their own.
I'll skip two paragraphs and just get right to my closing.
SEN. MCDONALD: There you go.
REP. BACCHIOCHI: I have personally witnessed the devastating affects of terminal disease and the wasting away of life. I can testify to you, under oath in front of this committee or in any court that medical marijuana does work. It works for people who have tried very other drug without success. Medical marijuana can give quality of life to those who have lost it.
And as a state government, if we cannot offer these people protection from prosecution, I ask you, who will do that job?
Thank you very much.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. I have just one very quick question. Do you know how this language lines up with the language from California that was just upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals?
REP. BACCHIOCHI: I don't know exactly, but I have read that. The nine states are very similar to the Connecticut legislation that's before you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. Any other questions? Thank you. Next is Lisa Holden, followed by Jeanne Milstein.
LISA HOLDEN: Eighteen years ago, Connecticut gained national reputation for taking domestic violence seriously. In 1986, the State Legislature passed Connecticut's Family Violence Prevention and Response Act still considered one of the most comprehensive family violence statutes in the country. This hallmark legislation created the mandatory Arrest Law.
Then, in 1997, the State of Connecticut's judicial branch was awarded federal funding to develop, implement, and evaluate a graduated continuum of prevention, sanctions, and treatment options that expanded on Connecticut's existing network of alternative sanctions.
In spite of these major accomplishments and others, Connecticut has also earned a national reputation for arresting domestic violence victims. The turn to the law to solve one problem, the lack of arrest in domestic assault cases has led directly to a new and unexpected one, the problem of dual arrests.
Good afternoon, Senator McDonald, Representative Lawlor, and members of the Judiciary Committee. My name is Lisa Holden and I am the Executive Director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
I am here today to support raised H.B. 5293, AN ACT CONCERNING DUAL ARREST OF FAMILY VIOLENCE CASES. The increase in arrests of ongoing victims of abuse, following the introduction of mandatory and pro-arrest policies presents a challenge not only to domestic violence advocates, but to the criminal justice system, as well.
After mandatory or pro-arrests statutes began to be implemented around the country, many, but not all jurisdictions found that along with the general increase in all single offender domestic violence arrests, they also witnessed a large jump in the number of dual offender arrests.
Connecticut's dual arrest rate averages 25%. Not all states collect arrest data as well as Connecticut, which is one reason why there has been widespread tolerance of this high rate. Yet in neighboring Rhode Island, a state with comparable statistical measures, the dual arrest rate is a mere two to three percent.
Dual arrests should be reserved for those cases in which officers truly feel that they have exhausted their ability to determine who the perpetrator is and who the victim is or where both parties are clearly a continuing danger to each other or others. Raised H.B. 5293 adds specific language that allows law enforcement officers to follow a pattern of investigative activities that should lead them to a more accurate arrest decision. Having police consider past history is an avenue for them to be able to begin to contextualize the violence that is occurring and who is doing what to whom with what impact.
Asking about the history of abuse therefore, is not about verifying the party's credibility, but rather about gaining insight about the use and context of violence within the relationship.
While many law enforcement officers may balk a this approach saying that it flies in the face of previous mandates, it's ethicacy lies in long range goals of victim safety and the good use of community resources.
When victims who have been beaten for many years use self-defense in response to the force being used against them, arresting them can have a number of negative consequences.
First, their most immediate response is to never call the police again. Knowing this, abusers may feel uninhibited in their use of violence towards the victim. In fact, they often use dual arrest as a reason to further isolate the victim from any legal remedies.
Second, if the victim is arrested, there are tremendous repercussions for them at the time of the arrest and in the future. The ramifications of this can range from the loss of child custody to not being able to qualify for affordable housing, employment, or loss of immigration status, amongst other things. All of this only exacerbates a victim's reliance upon the batterer, increasing the batterer's control over the victim, and thus increasing the likelihood of future danger.
The end result is both victim safety and offender accountability are undermined.
SEN. MCDONALD: Are you almost finished?
LISA HOLDEN: Just about.
SEN. MCDONALD: Please wrap up.
LISA HOLDEN: I will. The Coalition and our eighteen-member programs call on the Connecticut Legislature to pass H.B. 5293 in support of improving the criminal justice response for domestic violence victims.
I also want to testify in support of raised H.B. 5358, AN ACT ESTABLISHING A PERMANENT INTERAGENCY TASK FORCE ON TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS. CCADV supports this bill, as most, if not all of trafficking victims are victims of domestic violence. CCADV participated on the study group and we feel this bill will begin a process to help address the complex needs of trafficking victims, one of the most underserved populations in Connecticut.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you.
LISA HOLDEN: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Any questions? Thank you very much. Next is Jeanne Milstein, followed by Mark Wynn.
JEANNE MILSTEIN: Good afternoon, Senator McDonald, and members of the Judiciary Committee. My name is Jeanne Milstein. I'm the Child Advocate for the State of Connecticut.
I'll be brief. I'm here to support several bills today. First, H.B. 5297, AN ACT CONCERNING THE NEEDS OF JUVENILE STATUS OFFENDER AND STATUS OFFENDER VIOLATORS. We have a serious problem in our juvenile justice system and that the juvenile justice system is becoming the safety net for treating and supporting children, many children with mental health illness and behavioral disorders.
A large proportion of these children are in juvenile detention centers because they have violated court orders due to their unmet mental health needs. Families, caregivers, and concerned professionals often turn to the court for assistance to help manage children's behaviors that they alone have not been able to address. Many of these behaviors are the manifestations of mental and emotional illnesses.
I'll just kind of point out that one part of this bill that I think is very important. The bill directs the development and implementation of research-based screening protocols attached to proven community-based services and I emphasize the "proven". I think it's important that we fund programs that are proven to be effective. Connecticut is spending many millions of dollars locking children up. It costs $325,000 per child per year at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School. Residential care costs, while variable, can be in excess of $100,000 per child, per year and yet we have no idea if these children are doing better.
This bill directs the development and implementation of programming and supports that will divert children with treatable conditions away from incarceration and again, the built-in tracking and evaluation is very important to determine the effectiveness of programs.
Second, H.B. 5292, AN ACT CONCERNING THE REDUCTION OF DISPORPORTIONATE MINORITY REPRESENTATION IN THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM. I think one of the most important features of this proposal is to empower families by directing their inclusion in decision-making and encouraging their involvement in identifying barriers to their involvement and gaining access to services to help children.
Another part of this bill is the cultural competency in providing programs with cultural competency. This is not just another catch phrase. I think this is so critical. Cultural competency is the ability to assess and identify the challenges that children and their families face and provide helpful interventions.
Let me give you a real quick example of a story from our office. This past year we received a call about a young boy, we'll call him Carlos, it's not his name, who was a status offender. He had border line intelligence, substance abuse problems, problem behavior, and he spoke Spanish. We were told there were no Spanish speaking providers. Anyway, this child was sent to Virginia, lost that connection with his family. He's done very poorly, having a very difficult time reintegrating.
We also support the act, H.B. 5294, AN ACT CONCERNING THE JUVENILE JUSTICE PLAN FOR GIRLS. We don't have comprehensive plan in the State of Connecticut. Long Lane School closed a year ago and I think we need to do, not only a plan, but we need some timeframes and I also support H.B. 5358, AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE PERMANENT INTERAGENCY TASK FORCE ON TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. Are there any questions? Thank you.
Next is Mark Wynn, followed by James Papillo.
MARK WYNN: Thank you. It is an honor for me to be here today. This is my second visit to your state around this issue. I was here in January when we discussed the issue of mandatory arrests around the domestic violence cases and I've been asked to come here today to speak to you about a coalition, the Connecticut Coalition.
I've worked twenty-five years around this issue of domestic violence as a police officer and as an expert witness in courts. Over the years, I've worked for the National Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs, the National College of District Attorneys, and the National College of Family Juvenile Court Judges where in 1994, the National College enacted what was called the Model Code and the Model Code, they recommended the states to enact legislation around mandatory arrests and the dual arrests issues and that's why I'm speaking here today, because I'm in support of H.B. 5293.
Just briefly and Lisa, Ms. Holden, covered a lot of these issues and I don't want to cover the same ground, but over the last twenty years I've crossed this country and trained at every state except Alaska and trained with police officers and agencies who have both a state statute that explains dual arrest issues and mandatory training like California, Illinois, Mississippi. Also, victim advocates, prosecutors, very much like it and think it's much easier to deal with when they have a state law that gives them clear guidance.
Training is a critical issue, obviously, and when you see the combination of training in the state law, that's when you see the law really work its best.
Training alone, seems to be not as effective because the law in itself becomes the lighthouse. When all else fails as a police officer, no matter what my training is, I go back to my law for my guidance and that's certainly what this provision allows for.
As Lisa was saying earlier, this crime is devastating in itself and now we're having this issue of dual arrest around the country where both parties are being arrested and it is a training issue, but it also is a law issue. It is one of the most complex, confusing, and dangerous calls we answer in law enforcement. There's no margin for error, certainly, and we often find ourselves being manipulated by an offender at the scene of a domestic violence call where we find ourselves falsely arresting both parties. And in the law change, we'll certainly address some of these issues.
We changed our law in Tennessee several years ago. I helped draft the legislation there. And we didn't look at our code as being lacking. We changed the code not to criticize it, but to refine it. And we are refining this art of investigating domestic violence calls in law enforcement and it's taking us a long time to get here.
In closing, as Lisa said, what we've seen with a community, a county, a state where the law is unclear, where the intent's unclear, we found that both parties in some of these cases are being arrested. We're having civil rights violations being committed. So, quickly, we see offenders being empowered. We see victims being disempowered, causing inability to prosecute the case. The problem goes back to the home where the officer has to go back to again and again and again. It punishes the citizens for committing self-defense. It sidetracks the mission of the Violence Against Women Act, which is to hold the offender accountable and make the victim safer, and it increases the likelihood of civil liability for law enforcement.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much, sir. Thank you. Any questions from the members of the committee? Thank you for your testimony.
James Papillo. Kathleen Sloan.
KATHLEEN SLOAN: Good afternoon.
REP. STONE: Good afternoon.
KATHLEEN SLOAN: I have been a victim of domestic violence at the hands of an abusive man. I have also been doubly victimized by the practice of conducting dual arrest.
I was assaulted and hit several times on the head and face. I suffered an ear concussion as I swung out of multi-colored stars in my line of vision after I was struck. Because I attempted to defend myself from my attacker by pushing him away from me, I was also issued an arrest citation after I called the police for assistance. My attacker had a few minor scratch marks resulting from my attempts at self-defense. My attacker was a 6', 200 pound man. I am a 5'4", 110 pound woman. I was physically incapable of posing any physical threat to this man.
The officers told me that I shouldn't be concerned and to simply be present at court where I would probably be told to get counseling. When I arrived in criminal court, I had no idea of the nightmare which would unfold over the next six months. In addition to the extreme emotional, psychological, and physical trauma of the assault, I found myself filled with horror and fear at having to face the further trauma, humiliation, and indignity of being treated as a potential criminal when I had only attempted to defend myself against extreme bodily harm, a constitutional right.
I spent endless sleepless nights in terror, paralyzed with fear of both my attacker and the criminal court system. As a law abiding responsible citizen, with a graduate level education, who was the victim of a violent crime, the system I had called upon for help in a time of grave danger had responded by treating me as equally culpable. As a result, when I was again assaulted by my attacker, I would not call the police for fear of being further victimized yet again.
Something is terribly wrong when the system, which should protect victims essentially tells a woman that if she is violently assaulted by a man, she should not attempt to defend herself because she will be viewed as equally guilty if she does. The ramifications of such a situation for victims of violent, abusive men are despair, hopelessness, paralyzing fear, paranoia, and possibly permanent injury and even death.
Statistics readily verify that the victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly female. I implore this committee to do all in their power to stop this double-victimization by ending the practice of dual arrest. By so doing, you can save lives. The life you save, could be your colleague's your neighbor's, your sister's, your daughter's, even your own.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much for that testimony. Does anyone have any questions? Thank you very much.
Fernando Betancourt, Vanessa Burns. Penni Micca. Yu have to forgive me, Penni, if I mispronounced your name.
PENNI MICCA: Good afternoon, Chairman and members of the Judiciary Committee. Thank you for accepting my testimony on behalf of Interval House.
My name is Penni Micca. I am an Interval House advocate stationed full-time at the Manchester Police Department as part of the Domestic Violence Outreach Team.
Interval House is one of Connecticut's largest and oldest domestic violence intervention and prevention programs covering 23 communities in the greater Hartford area.
We have worked with thousands of victims of domestic violence over the years.
I am here to ask for your support on raised H.B. 5293, AN ACT CONCERNING DUAL ARRESTS IN FAMILY VIOLENCE CASES.
An officer once told me that back in the early 1980's when he went through the police academy it was standard training that if you stuck your nose into domestic violence, you were going into something you had no business in. "ninety-nine percent of the victims", he said, "drop charges before you've finished your report."
I've heard similar stories from others about that time period. As a result, officers resolved things unofficially. "We would encourage the man to go spend the night at his Mama's house", said the same officer. Well, we've come a long way. I'm not going to give you a history lesson on what changes were made in the laws along the way, you know what they are. Many of you helped craft them and lent your support.
The results, however, of the mandatory arrest policies that came into play during the mid 1980's turned out to be a mixed blessing for victims of domestic violence. For some officers, any easy answer to mandatory arrest is to say, "You both take a ride, I can't figure it out." For others, there is fear that they will risk personal liability through civil actions if they don't make an arrest and someone is hurt or killed in the future. Others misinterpret defensive action by victims to protect themselves or their children as an act of domestic violence.
As a result, the number of victims arrested for committing acts of violence against their partners has inappropriately increased over the years. Dual arrests are a safety issue. I can't begin to tell you how many victims of domestic violence find themselves at increased risk of harm because they are terrified of calling the police. I will never, never call the police again. I am the victim. I called for help and I was arrested. I can't afford to call the police. If I get arrested, they'll take my kids. I'll take my chances.
He told me if I dialed that phone, he would tell the police I hit him. It is not uncommon for a batterer to cause himself injury before the police arrives.
REP. STONE: I am going to ask you wrap up, Penni, if you would, please.
PENNI MICCA: Okay. I'll just fast forward. You know it takes just one arrest. We have gotten to the point where victims of domestic violence are fearful of even making a first call to the police. The police have to arrest you both, it's the law, friends and neighbors and social service providers tell them.
Others call their local police department for information about what their options are. Many tell me they have spoken to a dispatcher or officer who listened and was caring and supportive and explained the law to them as it is being interpreted across the State. We have mandatory arrest laws. If your partner states that you pushed or hit him, it's your word against his. We will probably arrest you both.
Remember the officer that told the man to spend the night at his mama's house? Well, fast forward to 2004. Some victims are being told by officers and dispatchers about mandatory arrest laws. Unofficially, they're being told to spend the night at mama's house.
I am hoping that you will support this bill.
REP. STONE: Thank you. Don't leave yet, Penni. Hold on. Does anyone have any questions of Penni? Thank you very much for your testimony.
Representative Toni Boucher.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you and good afternoon to members of the Judiciary Committee and especially to the ranking members, Representative Stone and Representative Farr, co-chair.
Good afternoon. Last year, with $1 billion budget gap that was looming in the 2003 session in its final two weeks, we, in the House of Representatives spent the better part of a day debating and rejecting Connecticut's move towards limited legalization of marijuana for medical use.
As you can see, I'm here to discuss H.B. 5355. For three hours, we debated the pros and cons of allowing people to possess, grow, and smoke marijuana if a doctor certified that it would ease pain or nausea. Many passionately questioned the message it would send to our children, especially given evidence that marijuana itself is harmful and often leads to the use of increasingly dangerous drugs.
Still others raised legal concerns that the State Legislature would contradict federal law that still outlaws marijuana as a controlled dangerous substance.
As a former member of the state and town Boards of Education, as a current member of the Legislature's Education Committee, and most of all, as a mother of three and a grandmother of two, I feel strongly compelled to oppose this legislation once again.
How much money and effort have we spent trying to keep kids starting down this path and now we're about to say that it's okay, that it's just medicine. If you ask any convicted felon who has done time with drugs, if they first started with marijuana, what do you think they would say? In fact, I heard many compelling testimonies recently in the Prison Overcrowding session we had here, as well, on Appropriations where there was a gentleman that was there talking about how he had a heroin needle in his arm by the age of eleven.
Look at what the market of marijuana has done to countries like Colombia, Haiti and Peru. This issue should not be so easily manipulated by those that are promoting its prescription use, especially when good, safe and effective alternatives are currently available or increasingly becoming available for medical patients.
During last year's debate I related the tragic experience and the courageous words of a Norwalk mother, Ginger Katz, of the Courage to Speak Foundation. Fortunately, she has come up here today and is going to wait long hours to come before you and tell you her story personally.
She's contacted me and many others across the country to talk about her particular situation and I will let her discuss that with you, but just after passing some stringent new laws to ban tobacco smoking in nearly all public places, I believe it would be counter-productive to relax the use of marijuana and I continue to strongly hold this view, especially since recent medical advances have derived drugs from the marijuana plant that can be administered without the impure toxic chemicals contained in crude marijuana smoke. In fact, I have, in your paperwork, there are also some great articles by Dr. Dupont who happens to be the Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown Medical Center and also of the Maryland based Institute for Behavior and Health. It really outlines a little bit more carefully, but just so that you know, crude marijuana contains more than 400 chemicals, most of which have not been studied by scientists. Some sixty of these chemicals which can be very dangerous substances.
So on that note, and because the time is so short and you've been here a long time, I just wanted to let you know that we should definitely wait and allow the FDA to do its job before heading in this very dangerous and destructive direction. And I might remind you, even if we were to pass this, that it would still be a violation of federal law to prescribe or use marijuana for medical purposes.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much, Representative Boucher. Does anyone have any questions of the Representative? Thank you very much for your testimony.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you very much.
REP. STONE: Marie Kenny.
MARIE KENNY: Good afternoon and thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you in support of raised H.B. 5293, AN ACT CONCERNING DUAL ARRESTS.
Prior to moving to Connecticut, I served as a Massachusetts State Trooper for eleven years, eight years of which I spent specializing in domestic violence and so what I would like to talk to you about is the law enforcement perspective and the changes that are recommended to the Family Violence Prevention Act.
We are asking that the law be refined to accommodate the intent and it is asking that the police officers consider the intent of this statute and I am confident that it was not the intent of the Connecticut General Assembly to have victims of domestic violence regularly arrested for defending themselves and that is, unfortunately, an adverse affect of this language, as it stands.
Police officers are now going to be -- if these changes are accepted, police officers would be asked to consider the level of injuries inflicted against the parties as a way to help identify who is, in fact, the abusive partner in the relationship.
I'd like to give you a typical scenario. We know a lot more about how batterers think, based on what we're hearing from the Batterer Intervention programs and my experiences with the programs in Massachusetts.
But a typical scenario. Suppose the husband is the abuser and the female wife is the victim. Most people over the age of twelve know that if you call a woman the "c" word, you are likely to get slapped. Now, I am not advocating that as an appropriate response, but it is common knowledge and abusers know that and abusers will talk in batterer groups that they use that kind of stuff, they use these strategies to provoke their partners.
So case in point would be a batterer calls his wife the "c" word. She slaps him across the face. In his mind, that is the green light and she is then met with a barrage of fists and feet, pulled by her hair and thrown around the room, held up by her throat. When the police arrive, he says, "Hey, she started it, she hit me first." The police turn to the woman and she looks them right in the eye and she says, "You bet I hit him." Under the current language, the police have no option other than to arrest both without having the tools and the ability to investigate deeper and find out what is going on in this relationship in a more deep way.
The police are also going to be asked to identify fear and which partner may be in fear of the other. And again, if you ask batterers how do they feel when their partners attack them, they will invariably laugh. They may consider it an affront to their authority, but make no mistake, abusers are not afraid of their victims.
My greatest concern around dual arrests is not even necessarily the impact on the victim, although I think that in and of itself should be enough to move you to approve these language changes.
What concerns me the most, as a former police officer, is the effect of dual arrest on batterers. It places the criminal justice system in a position of telling batterers, yes, your victim is equally responsible. Your victim is also to blame. And that is singly the most dangerous thing we can do to victims of domestic violence and that it empowers and emboldens batterers and places the victims in significantly greater danger.
So I urge you to accept the changes as they've been proposed in raised H.B. 5293.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much for your testimony. Does anyone have any questions? I just have one, if I might.
The Massachusetts law that you, as a police officer, State Trooper, were charged to enforce, was that similar to the Connecticut bill that we have before us or the Connecticut bill --
MARIE KENNY: No, in fact --
REP. STONE: -- we want -- has changed?
MARIE KENNY: It's closer to where the language would take the Connecticut statute. In fact, when Massachusetts heard about the Connecticut statute, the Legislature decided to enact very similar legislation and the battered women's community asked the Legislature to hold off and because of dual arrests, they made arrests preferred. The only incident of mandatory arrest in Massachusetts is for violation of a court protective or restraining order.
REP. STONE: Okay, thank you very much. Representative Farr.
REP. FARR: A quick question. There was some suggestion that a lot of this problem could be cured with better training. You don't agree with that?
MARIE KENNY: I don't because the statute says to the police officer if you believe a family or a household member has committed an assault against a family member or a household member, you will arrest. As long as it says you will arrest, police officers and I had this affirmed when I spoke at the public hearing previously by police officers who were in the audience. They affirmed that they feel, in that scenario I gave you, for instance, where she slaps him and then she gets throttled. If they do not arrest her, they are in violation of the statute and then face vulnerability for civil -- they're vulnerable to civil liability.
REP. FARR: Okay.
REP. STONE: Thank you, Representative Farr. Thank you very much for your testimony.
MARIE KENNY: Thank you.
REP. STONE: Julie Fables.
JULIE FABRO: Good afternoon and thank you for this opportunity to speak with you about the issue of domestic violence and the impact of dual arrests on victims.
My name is Julie Fabro and I have been employed for the Center for Women and Families for three years. Currently, I'm the coordinator of Court Advocacy Services and work out of GA 2 in Bridgeport.
As some of you may be aware, Bridgeport has a specialized domestic violence docket and receives approximately 300 to 350 new referrals each month. Therefore, I've dealt with thousands of victims of domestic violence after an arrest has been made.
Dual arrests is a major concern to the family violence service providers. Arresting victims along with offenders can have a detrimental affect of discouraging victims from seeking help from law enforcement in the future. I can't tell you how many times I hear victims say they will never call the police again if their spouse or partner was assaulting them. Their arrests clearly closes the door to future assistance from the criminal justice system.
In addition, arrest and conviction can effect access to housing, employment, state assistance, and educational resources that are essential for the survivor's ability to maintain their safety and independence from an abusive partner and to provide for their children.
Abusers also recognize the mandatory arrest policy and use the language of the statute to manipulate the criminal justice system and law enforcement officers. Perpetrators would like nothing more than to see their victim arrested. It sends a clear message that he is still in control and continues seeking power.
A theme that social workers who run batterer intervention groups often hear is, get to the phone first. Batterers tell other perpetrators that if they call the police first, they are more likely to be believed by the officers when they arrive on scene and the victim will be arrested. That is why an imperative part of this bill discusses training and clear protocol for police officers in order to identify the primary aggressor.
There is no doubt that officers feel their discretion has been taken away and they are frustrated. More mandated training for police officers must be included in this bill, along with clarification that police officers have and should use discretion in determining who the primary aggressor was.
I urge this committee to support raised H.B. 5293. When unnecessary dual arrests occur, victims are impacted and re-victimized by the very system that was meant to keep them safe. The consequences of dual arrests are drastic. It will severely impact the victim's future, especially when and if the victim feels it is the right time to leave the relationship, she will not seek assistance from the police nor the courts and other resources may have already been terminated.
REP. STONE: I would just ask you to finish up, if you would.
JULIE FABRO: Sure. Please look at the current statute carefully and make the necessary changes. These changes will benefit the victims, as well as police officers.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much for your testimony. Does anyone have any questions? Thank you very much.
JULIE FABRO: Thank you.
REP. STONE: Cecile Enrico.
CECILE ENRICO: Good afternoon.
REP. STONE: Good afternoon.
CECILE ENRICO: I'm here to testify on H.B. 5293, AN ACT CONCERNING DUAL ARREST IN FAMILY VIOLENCE CASES. My name is Cecile Enrico and I'm the Executive Director of Interval House and a member of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Board of Directors.
I have worked in the field of domestic violence for twenty-seven years. Prior to 1986, and the inception of the Family Violence Prevention and Response Act, domestic violence was not seen as a crime.
Our typical hotline call was from a battered woman calling to tell us that her partner had beat her up. She had called the police and nothing happened, no arrest was made. My job at the time was of an advocate and I would help victims of domestic violence to the police station so they could take out a complaint. Unfortunately, in many cases, the police did not accept the complaint. So when the Family Violence Prevention Act was passed, I was there doing all that I could see to get that passed.
Those of us who were involved in the battered women's movement saw this as a major victory for all victims of domestic violence. I still consider it a major victory except for the piece about mandatory arrest.
After the Family Violence Prevention Act was passed, we began seeing and hearing from victims that were being arrested when they called for help from the police. They were being abused, they called for help and they were being arrested. Over the past eighteen years I have done a lot of police training. I hear from many officers that most of the time they arrest both parties if there's a slightest hint of probable cause. Now I want to preface my statement by saying that I am well aware of women who are violent and they should be arrested, but statement from victims who have been arrested solely on what her partner tells the police or because they've used violence as a means of self-defense.
When we ask victims who are in our support groups and in our shelter if they would call the police again, they say no. They state that they would not call the police because they had either been previously arrested when they had called for help or in most cases, because they had heard that both parties get arrested.
We also put this question on our pre and post test and the majority believe that the police have to arrest both parties.
REP. STONE: I am going to ask you to just wrap up, if you would.
CECLIE ENRICO: Okay.
REP. STONE: Thanks.
CECILE ENRICO: What we hear from victims is that they're arrested if the partner often uses this arrest against her throughout the relationship, threatening her if she calls the police.
Another problem in dual arrests that it poses is that it follows the victim throughout. That victims have lost custody and the arrest was used in determining custody. Even today a woman, especially a mother, is looked at much worse when she is arrested rather than a man being arrested because domestic violence is about power and control over the victim. The victim now sees that her partner is able to get away with the abuse.
Arrest empowers her partner giving him justification of the abuse.
Dual arrest also confuses everyone, including the children. Dual arrest also diminishes the seriousness of the arrest. It also diminishes the seriousness of the violence.
So I ask you to support H.B. 5293.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much and just for the record and to all that I might have interrupted and may have to interrupt, it's just that we have four pages of people that want to testify. It's a very important bill and your testimony is very important to all of us. I'd like to have everyone have a chance. So I'm going to try to hold a little bit to the three minute rule and I will certainly let people go --
CECILE ENRICO: I certainly understand.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much for your understanding. Hold on, before you leave. Does anyone have any questions of this person? Thank you very much.
PEGGY BOUREY: Good afternoon. My name is Peggy Bourey. I would like to thank you for this opportunity to speak with you about raised H.B. 5293, AN ACT CONCERNING DUAL ARREST IN THE FAMILY VIOLENCE CASES.
I'm a survivor of domestic violence. I was born into a family where there was domestic violence and when I grew up, I married an abusive partner.
We had a family and my children witnessed verbal and physical abuse.
One evening after the children went to bed, my husband started arguing. He started arguing with me. He started shoving and shouting very loudly. The neighbors called the police, fearing for my safety.
When the police arrived, he told them that I had started hitting him first and I was being abusive. I tried to explain to the officer that he was lying, but the officer just looked really confused. He told us that he did not know which one of us was telling the truth. He said that we would both have to come down to the station and be booked for breach of peace and let the court figure it out.
I called a neighbor to watch my children, who at this time were wide awake and standing ten feet away. I could not believe I was being arrested. It did not seem to bother my husband, whatsoever. The children were very upset and they were crying and not only from the pushing and the shoving that they had just witnessed moments before, but now that both of their parents were being taken away and arrested. They were confused as to what mommy had done wrong. She must have done something wrong because the policeman was arresting her. I had always brought up my children to believe that the police were there to help people. I had a terrible time explaining to my children why the officers felt the need to arrest everyone and not just daddy who had been doing the pushing, the shoving, and the shouting.
We were taken to the police station, side by side in the police cruiser and booked. I was never so embarrassed in my life. Now for the rest of my life I will have an arrest record, even though there was no conviction and I had done nothing wrong.
I would never have fought back for fear of my life.
I went to court the next day and the charges were dropped if we did some counseling. He went to the counseling and he just -- whatever they wanted. Whatever they wanted, he did to get out of it. I made sure the police were never involved again.
In the meantime, there was real, excuse my language, hell to pay at home for a while. My husband had me right where he wanted me. Every time something didn't go his way exactly, he would threaten to call the police and I would be arrested again and he would take the children and I would never get my children back because I had been arrested too many times.
I feared for losing my children, so I did what he wanted. I did not want this violent man bringing up my children.
Some years later, I was able to contact a shelter from the Domestic Violence Program. They gave me the support and showed me how to navigate my way through the court system to get what I needed to protect me and my children. This bill, the language in this bill is clear and precise and that it states no arrest shall be made if any injury is reasonably caused is believed to be in self-defense of one's self or a third party and it takes into consideration the history of the family violence, which is a key piece in making a decision on whose the victim and who is the abuser.
It would also establish education and training for law enforcement and those who work in the courts.
REP. STONE: Thank you, Peggy very much and before you get up, does anyone have any questions? Thank you very much for your testimony.
ERIN CLARK: Good afternoon. My name is Eric Clark and I'm a public policy intern with the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which works closely with the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services.
CCADV is a statewide network comprised of eighteen domestic violence programs driven by a mission to work together to end domestic violence by changing the conditions, beliefs, and social actions that perpetuate abuse against women and children.
I am here today to ask you to support raised H.B. 5357, which is AN ACT CONCERNING SEXUAL ASSAULT RESTRAINING ORDERS.
Under current Connecticut law, a person who has been physically abused, harassed, or sexually assaulted by a family or household member or by someone that person is dating, may obtain a civil restraining order. The law does not allow a person who has been sexually assaulted by a stranger or by a person who the victim knows, but with whom the victim is not in a dating relationship.
(Inaudible-tape switched from side 2A to side 2B- some testimony/dialogue not recorded)
ERIN CLARK: --- When a person is sexually assaulted their world is turned upside down. Most of the time the victim wants the offender to stay away. In some cases, the victim may choose not to report the crime and may not pursue criminal prosecution of the offender.
The victim may simply want the offender to stay away. In cases in which a victim does know the offender, or only knows the offender as an acquaintance, for example, a co-worker or a neighbor, the victim may only obtain an order of protection if the victim pursues criminal prosecution against the offender.
In other words, there is no civil law that adequately protects sexual assault victims' personal safety needs.
The current bill being considered will put into place a civil procedure whereby a victim of sexual assault who is not covered under the current law can obtain a restraining order against the offender. The restraining order would be available to a victim who has had no prior relationship with the perpetrator and/or alleges non-consensual sexual intercourse or sexual contact.
The restraining order would require the offender to stay away from the victim and from places the victim -- places identified by the victim.
Please support this bill as it provides for more adequate protections for victims of sexual assault to who choose not to use or cannot use the criminal justice system.
Thank you for your time.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much for your testimony. Does anyone have any questions? Thank you very much.
BRIAN ANDERSON: Good afternoon, Chairman Stone, Chairman Lawlor, and members of the Judiciary Committee. My name is Brian Anderson. I'm a lobbyist for Council 4 AFSCME which is a public employee and non-profit employees union of about 35,000 members in Connecticut.
I'm here to speak about H.B. 5043 which is one of the Governor's budget implementation-type bills which also includes the Department of Correction's budget.
We ask the Committee to amend this bill to remove the section that would send 2,500 inmates out-of-state. We feel that this is a particularly ill-advised move. What we suggest is that about $30 million be taken and used to hire adequate staffing in our correction system. I'd like to refer the members to the Program Review Committee report that was done by the Legislature's staff. It shows that Connecticut is down about 18% or 700 lion staff in the Correction Department. That's a particularly dangerous situation and I think it was shown in an assault that took place in September when a Connecticut correction officer was badly slashed and almost killed while placing himself between an inmate armed with a knife trying to assault an unarmed inmate.
If we were adequately staffed, there would have been a poll post where that officer was assaulted and that is basically a post where a roving correction officer would have been a lookout for trouble. Unfortunately, that post was not filled due to the staff shortage.
Actually, we think that that money could be taken and used to go a long way to restoring full staffing for the correction system and also have some money left over for alternative incarceration programs which our union has been up here testifying in favor of for years.
I would just like to state that Secretary -- OPM Secretary Marc Ryan testified before the Appropriations Committee in this room on February 5th that these inmates, if they do send them out-of-state, will have to go to a privatized prison, a particularly bad idea. The privatized prison industry has a horrible reputation and it's a bad time to do those kind of privatizations.
Just let me quote from Attorney General Blumenthal's testimony before the GAE Committee regarding privatization and his investigative findings. "Even as my investigation continues, we already have irrefutable evidence that the current contracting system is fundamentally flawed, that some contractors have gained and exploited it and that abuses have involved massive misspending and criminal wrongdoing." What that means is that it's a really bad time for folks during the current federal investigation and impeachment investigation to do this kind of contracting.
And also, just to briefly touch on what Representative Lawlor has said before. What this is really doing is outsourcing Connecticut jobs to folks in a different state at a time of high unemployment.
Thanks. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
REP. STONE: Thank you, Mr. Anderson. Does anyone have any questions? Senator Kissel.
SEN. KISSEL: Less of a question, more of a statement, Brian. Again, when you came and testified before the Program Review Committee last week, we all said you're just doing a fantastic job advocating for correction officers. And I just wanted to make sure that that's a part of the record of this public hearing, as well.
I think those points that you make are very well founded. I asked similar questions of Commissioner Lantz and somehow I think that we need an exit strategy regarding out-of-state placements of prisoners. It's money clearly going to other economies and helping them, whether it's through paychecks or support services or the like and it just struck all of us last Friday that if we could somehow find a way to adequately fund those support services in our communities, then we could free up, because all those Level One prisoners that could be sent out into the community, they would have a safety net out there as far as programs. And I think as soon as you do that, then you could bring these out-of-state prisoners back to Connecticut. We wouldn't be sending all that money out of our economy, out of state and we think we do it without a massive buildup of further facilities.
How we get from point "A" to point "B" to point "C", it seems like it's pulling teeth, but I think that we're all pretty much on the same page and moving in that direction.
BRIAN ANDERSON: Thank you, Senator Kissel.
REP. STONE: Thank you, Senator.
BRIAN ANDERSON: We appreciate your comments and Connecticut's existing nonprofit proven providers of halfway houses have said that virtually within about 60 days they could fill 300 halfway house slots. So it would be great if that was the course the State would stake.
REP. STONE: Thank you, Mr. Anderson. Thank you, Senator for those comments.
Any other questions? Thank you very much.
BRIAN ANDERSON: Thanks.
REP. STONE: Deb Drucker. Dr. David Simon. Doctor, you're going to follow Ms. Drucker, okay. Good afternoon.
DEBBORAH DRUCKER: Good afternoon. Good afternoon. My name is Deborah Drucker. I thank you for the opportunity to speak with you about raised H.B. 5293, AN ACT CONCERNING DUAL ARREST IN FAMILY VIOLENCE CASES.
On July 12, 2002, my now former husband assaulted me. I went to the pond where he was fishing. I complained to him that he needed to stop sending tenants to my workplace looking for money that they believed they were owed.
I parked my Jeep and walked over to where he was fishing. I called out to him and wanted to know why -- he wanted to know why I was there and to go home. I stated he was being a jerk sending the tenants to my workplace. He threw down his fishing pole and came at me, yelling the whole time, he was going to hurt me and damage my car.
He started toward my car. Fearing what he might do, I placed myself between him and the door. He pushed me many times while I held onto the door and side mirror. He grabbed at me while attempting to get my keys from the ignition leaning his body into me with its full weight.
I tried to push back, but he was too heavy. I leaned up against the car with my back to the door, holding onto the side window for support, whereby he forced his total body weight against me with his arms raised and crossed against my chest crushing me.
I couldn't move and panic set in. I couldn't breathe. I tried to scream for help, but I was in the woods. The friend fishing with him came over to the truck, but did not attempt to intervene. He finally let go, but laughed that no one was going to help me. I ran to his car hoping that if I got inside, I would lock the doors because the windows were electric and I would be safe in his car.
He grabbed my legs, twisting them. I climbed through this car and in the process, papers fell out, scattering to the ground. I sat on the ground trying to think what to do. I moved back to my car and he followed. I was looking for my cell phone. I had locked the doors, but in my state of fear, had forgotten that I had a soft top Jeep and he just had to unzip the back, which he did.
He fought with me to get the cell phones because he feared I would call the police. He came around from behind and grabbed my upper chest and neck. I grabbed his face, hoping he would let me go. I gave him one cell phone, but I kept asking him for him to leave me the keys so I could leave.
I opened my car door, when grabbed my purse, which had another cell phone, after threatening to crush my legs with the door if I didn't give him what he wanted.
I held onto my purse while he dragged me over the ground. Throughout the assault, he kept smiling, a smile as someone who enjoyed what he was doing.
Finally, he leaned up against his car and stated, while looking over the pond in the wooded area, that he would get rid of me and no one would ever find me.
In my heart, I knew that this was a serious threat. And in the essence of time, I did go to the hospital. A state trooper took my statement. Never did the trooper look at me nor look at the injuries that were inflicted upon me. A hospital worker took the pictures for the police report. I stated that I fought for my life, that my husband's intention was, to this day, and I still believe, to kill me. The officer's statement to me was that I had thrown papers out of the car, therefore he had to write me a summons for disorderly conduct.
Yes, I pushed my husband. Yes, I pushed his face because I was being hurt and fighting for my life. Yes, papers fell out of the car, but I believed he was going to kill me.
Dual arrest is not what the law intended. It was intended for mandatory arrest so the victims of family violence did not have to be forced to give statements that may otherwise endanger them even more.
Unfortunately, this is not what takes place and as in my situation, many victims are arrested because it's just easier for the officer to leave it to the courts to decide what happened.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much.
DEBORAH DRUCKER: Thank you.
REP. STONE: Does anyone have any questions? Thank you very much. Dr. Simon.
DR. DAVID SIMON: Ladies and gentlemen of the Judiciary Committee, I'm Doctor David Simon. I am a licensed physician and have practiced medicine in the State of Connecticut since 1991.
My professional background includes being a board certified anesthesiologist and having the added qualification of certification in addiction medicine by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
Today I'm here to support an amended version of raised H.B. 5355, AN ACT CONCERNING THE MEDICAL USE OF MARIJUANA.
Last year I heard on t.v. the debate regarding H.B. 5100 on the House floor and was deeply troubled by comments of those that oppose the bill. Therefore, I'm here today to speak to some of those issues.
On the floor of the General Assembly, opponents of H.B. 5100 used the following arguments against the bill. One, there are no doctors that support the bill. This claim is false. In today's public hearing you will hear from two licensed physicians, one who holds a Masters Degree in Public Health who have practiced in the State of Connecticut and who can testify to the benefits of medical marijuana.
In addition, we have over 300 signatures of doctors in Connecticut who have signed a letter of support for medical marijuana.
Two. There is a pharmaceutical grade of marijuana called Marinol that makes availability of herbal marijuana unnecessary. This is false. Inhaled marijuana is the most efficient form of ingestion of the active drug, especially for patients that cannot keep down orally ingested tablets, such as those with nausea, vomiting, anorexia.
As Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Lester Grinspoon put it, giving a pill to someone with extreme nausea is like giving a suppository to someone with diarrhea.
Also, Marinol is a prescription medicine that contains, as its active ingredient, one cannabinoid, Delta 9THC. Herbal marijuana contains some 23 different cannabinoids, chemical variance of the same mechanical. These different cannabinoids are thought to have slightly different properties that when acted together, simply work better than one purified version as in Marinol.
Perhaps most importantly as it relates to the proposed legislation, herbal marijuana is much less expensively obtained by patients than is Marinol. The cost of Marinol in doses typically prescribed is about $600 a month or $5,000 a year.
The third argument against the bill was that there are very effective prescription medications available already on the market for treating severe nausea and vomiting. Prescription medicines such as Kytril and Zofran, which are used to protracted nausea and vomiting as associated with chemotherapy drugs are among the most expensive pharmaceutical agents sold in the United States. In fact, dosages of these medications often need to be so high to be effective as to cost hundreds of dollars per dose, the average dose of Marinol in a hospital was $176 per injection.
These drugs are so expensive, in fact, that they have been removed from some hospital formularies in Connecticut where cancer chemotherapy is administered. A one month supply of Kytril -- may I continue? I have about a minute. Thank you.
About a one month supply of Kytril costs approximately $2,500. Clearly, our overburdened, under-funded health care system would benefit from the significant cost reduction that would result from placing these -- from replacing these expensive drugs with smoked herbal marijuana.
And then finally, it was brought up that Connecticut already has a statute that allows physicians to prescribe marijuana. Connecticut's statute 21a-246 states, "Upon application of any physician licensed pursuant to Chapter 370, the Commissioner of Consumer Protection shall, without unnecessary delay, license such a physician to possess and supply marijuana for the treatment of glaucoma and the side effects of chemotherapy."
I would like this committee to know that I am the only doctor to have applied for such a license and I was turned down. The Department of Consumer Protection refuses to grant such licenses. I am submitting a copy of my rejection letter to this committee.
Other physicians have not applied for such licensure for fear of federal prosecution. As under federal statutes, even physicians are not allowed to possess and prescribe marijuana, however the raised bill, as amended would be different by allowing a physician to recommend medical marijuana, which now is supported under federal case law, thus allowing the mechanism for an affirmative defense in this state to protect the patient who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes in the state.
In closing, may I just relate one story about a patient?
REP. STONE: Sure, quickly.
DR. DAVID SIMON: I'm sorry.
REP. STONE: That's alright.
DR. DAVID SIMON: I'd like to relate a story a patient I know whose live was saved by marijuana. This patient was referred to me by an out-of-state physician. She had a history of anorexia nervosa. She was referred to me for a medical detoxification from opiate drugs.
The withdrawal process aggravated her anorexia and when she returned home to Maine, she ceased eating following detoxification. She became dangerously unstable. Both myself and her primary care physician who referred her to me were extremely concerned. She was near death.
Medicines were prescribed to her, including Marinol and they had no effect, to no avail. After a friend of hers arranged for her to get smoke marijuana, she made a full recovery.
So, finally, in interest of time, I won't read any further, but there are some comments on my written remarks that I would like to refer you to.
REP. STONE: Each of the committee members has a copy of those remarks and I'm sure they'll be reading those with interest.
DR. DAVID SIMON: Thank you very much.
REP. STONE: But we have a very diverse committee and quite frankly, there's Representatives and Senators on both sides of that issue. So your comments are certainly appreciated and will be reviewed.
Does anyone have any questions of the Doctor? I just, if I might, one question. It's been stated that there is -- and you may have alluded to it in your testimony, but that there's a pill that one can take that contains the active ingredient, TLC, that is the same active ingredient that you would get if you were to allow marijuana use. Is that a correct or incorrect statement?
DR. DAVID SIMON: The 9THC is a cannabinoid. It's one single drug. In smoked marijuana, there are 23 cannabinoids which are similar molecules to this THC that you speak of.
REP. STONE: Similar, but not the same.
DR. DAVID SIMON: Similar, but not the same. And the anecdotal evidence from patients surveys is that for whatever reason, because it's more different cannabinoids, perhaps, that smoked marijuana, in many cases, just works better. And if I may just add, the strongest argument for this bill, in my opinion, is just simple cost effective argument. Getting the bang for your buck from smoked marijuana versus paying $2,500 a month for Kytril and other expensive medications.
REP. STONE: But I guess my question is, if you had -- if there was no monetary difference, would there still be -- would it still be the same -- would taking the pill operate the same or have the same effect as smoking the marijuana, assuming no monetary difference between the two.
DR. DAVID SIMON: I think it's fair to say it's not exactly the same, the pill to smoked. And that different treatments work better for different patients. There may be patients that take the pill, like the woman I described, that I cared for, that the pill didn't work for. She smoked marijuana and it worked.
REP. STONE: Okay, so it's probably a decision that would be best left to the doctor and patient rather than to a Representative and --
DR. DAVID SIMON: Well, it would be a position that would be left best to the doctor, which this bill allows --
REP. STONE: Allows you to do.
DR. DAVID SIMON: Yes.
REP. STONE: Okay, thank you very much. Anyone else? Yes, Representative McMahon.
REP. MCMAHON: You mentioned anorexia. I just wonder, is there a tremendous increase in anorexia in the United States now?
DR. DAVID SIMON: I wish I could answer that with authority, but that's not my area of expertise, unfortunately. But I do know it is a very serious problem in the United States.
REP. MCMAHON: Yeah. Okay. Thank you.
DR. DAVID SIMON: You're welcome.
REP. STONE: Thank you, Representative. Anyone else? Thank you, Doctor.
DR. DAVID SIMON: Thank you.
REP. STONE: Chief Salvatore and Chief Strillacci. Identifying the bills they're going to speak about has "various". I will remind you, Chief, of the time limit I'm trying to hold onto here.
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: Yes, sir.
REP. STONE: Thank you, Chief.
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: We're Tony Salvatore and Jim Strillacci. We represent the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association. We're here only to speak on two bills.
The first is H.B. 5293, dual arrests. We oppose this bill. Since 1986, Connecticut has had a very strong and clear law on domestic violence. If there is probable cause, we make an arrest. It's mandatory.
Section (b) of this bill is going to undermine that by putting between the determination of probable cause and the actual arrest, a list of subjects that the officer is going to have to consider. If it looks like one person has broken the law.
And the wording of these requirements is fairly vague. It's going to make it difficult to understand. And even if understood, it's going to be difficult to apply because of the breadth of the terminology.
Domestic is already complex and volatile. Modifying the probable cause standard in these particular cases is going to add confusion. It may actually dissuade the officer from making an arrest at all.
The bill, to us, appears to stem from a comparison of statistics between Connecticut and other states. The observation that Connecticut makes more of these what they call dual arrests than other states and the assumption, based on the stats, that some of these arrests are wrong.
We don't necessarily agree with the assumption, but we believe that the intent of the bill is to keep victims of family violence from being arrested for merely defending themselves. We certainly have no objection to that, that's a worthy cause. We support it, but we think there's a better way to do it under current law - 53a-19 defines "self defense." 46b-38b already mandates that the police officer (inaudible) and training council, on conjunction with the Division of Criminal Justice, must provide family violence training to police at both the recruit level and at the in-service refresher level.
If, at least one training cycle, usually a three year cycle, this training were to emphasize the legal concept of self-defense, police would be better equipped to determine whether a person's conduct was criminal or justified.
Now, if an officer going into a domestic believes that there was legal self-defense, there's no probable cause and therefore, there's no reason to make an arrest. A simple yes or no decision on probable cause maintains the current protection for victims of domestic violence in the mandatory arrest statute.
The proposed standard, which is probable cause plus exceptions, would water down their protection. Now that the dual arrest problem has been raised, (inaudible) can adequately address it and the changes suggested by this bill are unnecessary.
CHIEF JAMES STRILLACCI: And Representative, if I may add, I am the Chairman of the Police Officers Standards and Training Council. And the first time that I learned that there were these concerns out there was as a result of reading this bill. No one has ever brought these concerns to the Council's attention and I agree with what we said here as far as our position with the Connecticut Chiefs, but I agree that we can direct, both in-service and recruit level classes, to receive training in this area if that is, in fact, where the problem lies. We don't see a need right now, though, for this type of language.
REP. STONE: Okay. Any other bill you were testifying on?
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: Just briefly. We do support H.B. 5311, the temporary protective order for sexual assault cases. It's (inaudible) in current law and we think it would be well served.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much. Does anyone have any questions of either Chief? Yes, Representative Hamm.
REP. HAMM: Thank you, Representative Stone. Gentlemen, it sounds to me like your testimony is that we didn't know there was a problem and I guess I find that a little hard to believe. Obviously, you're on the ground. You know what officers are doing. And if they're arresting both people, didn't that strike you as probable cause for both?
CHIEF JAMES STRILLACCI: Just arresting both people doesn't mean that the arrests are incorrect, though. There are many cases where you go to -- and there's mutual accusations and there's mutual physical evidence to back it up. It is not currently the freedom in the officer's eyes to disregard one or the other.
If there's probable cause, make an arrest, it is made.
REP. HAMM: Well, then let me ask you this. What do you believe the intent of the our Family Violence laws are the core? What did we do all that for with Tracy Thurman?
CHIEF JAMES STRILLACCI: To make sure that cases were not treated as social work, to make sure cases were not ignored, to make sure that we didn't treat people differently because they were a domestic violence situation rather than a bar fight or an on the street assault.
For many years, officers that came out of our generation like Chief Salvatore and I, we're taught that these were essentially family problems, should be solved as families and that there weren't things that the police could solve. Thurman taught us otherwise, that we're perhaps the last resource or recourse for victims in domestic violence, that they needed our attention, they needed our intervention. That we may not solve all their problems, but we will at least get them into the system, we'll separate the violator, the brutalizer from the victim, and let the courts intervene.
It's not going to solve all the problems, but at least we did our part.
REP. HAMM: Well, actually I was leaning toward thinking maybe we could resolve this with training until you two spoke, I have to be honest with you.
Has dual arrest been discussed in any kind of training at all since this thing was passed?
CHIEF JAMES STRILLACCI: Dual arrest has been raised this year.
REP. HAMM: No, but I mean as part of your training as far as looking at definitions of self-defense and assessing what happens on the scene and who is the victim and who is not.
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: Well, our officers are taught what probable cause is. And if they go to a domestic violence and they have probable cause to arrest both individuals, then in essence, an arrest is made of both individuals. If the officer determines that one individual was protecting him or herself and the other one was the aggressor, then only one party is arrested.
Your question previously of dual arrest, no, this has not been discussed by the Chiefs or by the Council previously and prior to this, no.
REP. HAMM: Well, I think that is pointing out important this is that we have to do something with language, I thought had been around a long time and thought our model bill and law worked so well and that the core of that was the way we trained our police officers so that they understood the context of domestic violence and it wasn't just a domestic. And I'm not hearing you tell me that the training that you're getting separates probable cause in a domestic violence situation differently. So that I don't understand whether there's a context.
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: It should not.
CHIEF JAMES STRILLACCI: We should backup a step. We're being told there's a problem because there's a statistical disparity between our state and other states. We don't know what the laws are in those other states, though. We don't know if those states mandate arrest for domestic violence. They may treat it the way we used to do back in the 70's. So we're not sure those stats are valid.
REP. HAMM: Well, forget the stats. Okay, we'll throw them out. I don't care if we're high or we're low. If you believe and your officers believe that the dual arrest issue is only about probable cause, without a context of domestic violence and the dynamic of violence against women, then how are you ever going to train them to not have a dual arrest?
CHIEF JAMES SALVATORE: Well, that's we see as a problem right here in this language. It's going to cause more confusion amongst our own police officers. We're not saying --
REP. HAMM: They're going to have to think. They're going to have to assess the facts on the ground.
CHIEF JAMES STRILLACCI: Ma'am, I --
REP. STONE: Representative, let him answer the question before you go on.
CHIEF JAMES STRILLACCI: I understand what you're saying, Representative. We've never heard that there was a problem and when I say we never heard there was a problem with dual arrest, I mean we never heard that the numbers were rising to a level that allegedly there was a problem and the problem was with the police. No one has ever come to us and brought this to our attention.
REP. HAMM: I appreciate that.
CHIEF JAMES STRILLACCI: And what we're saying is if this is the fact, then we think the best way to address it, at least to start off the way to address it, is to look at what we do for training and go back and take a look at it that way with regard to basic and in-service training if that is, in fact, the case. But we're only given numbers compared to allegedly other states and I have no idea what they're doing in other states.
I know what Tracy Thurman meant to this state and it basically took discretion away from the police officer and that they could no longer, if there was a need for an arrest, they could not walk away from it, they had to make an arrest.
REP. HAMM: That we agree about.
CHIEF JAMES STRILLACCI: And we don't have a problem with that, Representative. All we're saying is this is the first time we heard that there is an alleged problem and we're saying that if there is a situation that requires to be addressed, the best way to do it is through training. I don't think what you're saying here is going to address it one way or the other. We're just saying that's confusing and we think the way to allow us to attempt to look at the problem and address it is through training.
REP. HAMM: But it says to me that you don't think there's a problem.
CHIEF JAMES STRILLACCI: I didn't say I didn't think there was a problem. The only time this was brought to my attention and my attention as the Chairman of POST is when I read this bill.
REP. HAMM: You don't understand my point, do you? So I mean I'm going to have to end there.
CHIEF JAMES STRILLACCI: You're asking me if I think my officers are making unnecessary arrests? I don't believe my officers are making unnecessary arrests. I believe my officers are arresting individuals, as required and both under the law.
REP. HAMM: Okay. We agree to disagree.
REP. STONE: Thank you, Representative Hamm. Anyone else? Representative Berger.
REP. BERGER: Thank you, Vice-Chairman Stone. You sounded a little bit like a judge there, when you said let them speak.
REP. STONE: I'll let you talk about one minute.
REP. BERGER: Thank you, Representative. Just quickly. What is the training component for an officer, first going into the academy on domestic violence? How many hours are they trained currently?
CHIEF JAMES SALVATORE: I don't have the exact numbers of the course, but I can get it to you. I want to say it's upwards of eight to ten hours for domestic violence.
REP. BERGER: Has that training increased since the Tracy Thurman case?
CHIEF JAMES SALVATORE: Yes.
REP. BERGER: By how much?
CHIEF JAMES SALVATORE: Well, I don't know the exact numbers again, but I know that recruit level, basic training now is 19 to 20 weeks and in-service is now 60 hours every three years for municipal police officers.
REP. BERGER: After an officer graduates from the academy and goes into the field, is there a continuing education on domestic violence cases that the officer is required by state law and regulated by state law to get?
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: Yes.
REP. BERGER: And what is that number?
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: That is the 60 hours every three years mandatory in-service certification training.
REP. BERGER: And how much of that component of that 60 hours do you believe, approximately is dedicated to domestic violence training?
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: That's variable and that can be addressed by POST. We can allow as little as an hour or two to as many as we see fit to address what we feel is a certain situation.
REP. BERGER: So it's an additional two hours, you said, every two years out of the 60 hour component?
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: Yes.
REP. BERGER: Thank you.
REP. STONE: Thank you, Representative. Anyone else?
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: As required by law.
REP. STONE: Anyone else? Chief, just one question, if I might. Either Chief can respond.
You were here during most of the day and you heard the testimony of some of the witnesses who came forward and related personal events that occurred in their lives and I'm just wondering whether you sense from those circumstances whether there might have been a problem with the actions of a police officer?
CHIEF JAMES STRILLACCI: Well, we're only hearing one side of the story and as you know, with a domestic, there's always two. Sometimes there's more. And frankly, the more sides we can get, the better. Part of the difficulty with domestic fights is you do have to look at both sides of the story. It's a lot easier if we have witnesses. It's a lot easier if we have physical evidence. What we're generally faced with is two people in a very heightened emotional state and they both have completely different perceptions of the event that transpired and sometimes we even have intentional disingenuous versions. Trends that I've read in some of the information given to us by the folks against domestic violence shows an upward trend in women being arrested. I think some of the male parties are learning how to play the law and they're learning to lie to police officers, but police officers don't have polygraphs in their pockets. They can't discern between truth and a lie unless there's something to break the tie. If there's physical evidence or there's a witness.
So, we're kind of stuck with what people give us for evidence.
REP. STONE: But your training in this area is designed to look beyond -- look into those issues, look at all the facts and circumstances, not necessarily automatically arrest both parties involved, but --
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: We have --
REP. STONE: -- let me just finish. But to go through an analysis based on all the circumstances and determine whether one, both or none of the parties should be arrested. Is that an accurate statement?
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: Yes and there's no constitutional right to get arrested. We tell our officers that you don't have to make an arrest on the spot if the facts aren't clear. You can always get a warrant. If it looks like it's unequal, but there's probable cause on each side, you can arrest one, give a summons to the other.
REP. STONE: And I suppose the problem, at least as it has been related to us today, is that that analysis, prior to making the arrest, at least in practice, has not always occurred, at least based upon the --
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: I beg to differ because a summons could still come across on the paperwork as an arrest. I think the witness we had earlier mentioned that she was given a summons. And under the circumstances, if the officer did have probable cause for some offense, you probably exercise some judgment by making a custodial arrest of the aggressor and issuing a paper ticket to the lesser of the offenders.
REP. STONE: Well, an arrest is an arrest, right?
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: It is, but you don't get hauled in with handcuffs. You don't get booked.
REP. STONE: Understood. No, understood.
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: And you maintain your freedom to go about and arrange your affairs and take care of your children and things of that nature, which are considerations to us.
REP. STONE: I would think. Okay, thank you very much. Anyone else, based upon that? Yes, Representative Hamm for the second time.
REP. HAMM: Would you gentlemen get me a syllabus, for the lack of a better word, of the training you provide, both initially and the two year increments? I would like to actually see what the training's about.
CHIEF JAMES STRILLACCI: Sure, be happy to supply that.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much, gentlemen.
CHIEF ANTHONY SALVATORE: Thank you.
REP. STONE: Tom Sellas, followed by Kathleen Nastri. Last call for Tom Sellas. Kathleen Nastri.
KATHLEEN NASTRI: Good afternoon.
REP. STONE: Good afternoon.
KATHLEEN NASTRI: Senator McDonald, members of the committee, my name is Kathleen Nastri and I am President of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association.
I've been before all of you in the past on the issue of caps on medical malpractice and to let you know that the trial lawyers are opposed to those caps.
So this afternoon I am going to, in the interest of time, yield my time to Karen Dost who has a different and more important, frankly, perspective on the issue of medical malpractice and the medical malpractice reform issues that you'll be debating during the course of this session.
So, thank you very much for allowing us to speak.
KAREN DOST: Good afternoon. Today I speak not on behalf of any organization, but on behalf of the family of Dianne Folbert, my 50-year old sister, who died in a local hospital 5-1/2 months ago.
Dianne's death was caused by an acute hemorrhage resulting from a lacerated artery that occurred during a very common procedure for re-inflating a lung.
Dianne did not know when she entered the hospital that she had advanced lung cancer. She never even had time to absorb the news or her preliminary diagnosis given to her about one hour before her downward spiral.
Thirty six hours after entering the hospital, Dianne was dead.
While Dianne was still alive and in ICU, a doctor approached us and said, and this is a very close paraphrase, "I didn't do this to Dianne, but I think that I can repair the damage done. If I had done that procedure on her, I would have used a smaller needle." One month after Dianne's death, the hospital apologized for the injury, accepted the blame for what happened, and admitted that Dianne would still be alive if the injury had not occurred. Were we, her family, supposed to be comforted by these words? Does the hospital believe that the issue is now settled?
I am afraid that they do think it is settled, for after all, what recourse does our family have.
I hold no particular animosity for the medical profession and I have no desire to witness the ruin of a hospital or the career of any human being. Mistakes happen. None of us is perfect. None of us is God.
I truly hope that when Dianne's story is fully told, if ever, all involved can sleep well at the end of the day. But there are times when mistakes happen for entirely unacceptable reasons and we owe it to those who have died and more so to the living to find out the truth. I owe it to Dianne to find out the truth about her death. I was the one who convinced her, against her better judgment, that she would be better off in the care of the hospital.
What happened to Dianne? Was it a sudden slip of a needle that nobody could have prevented? Or was it a doctor's bad judgment, incompetence, exhaustion or some other cause? And why did no one detect that Dianne's life was slipping away until it was too late?
When an infant dies in the care of an adult, that adult must answer questions. When a driver dies at a traffic intersection, all parties involved must answer questions. Whenever any of us has anything to do with the death of another human being, we must answer questions. Why must the rest of us have to answer to society while doctors hide behind a veil of protection?
Before Dianne's death I was inclined to dismiss the plethora of malpractice suits as symptomatic of a society gone mad with greed. I did not fully understand until her death that there is one way alone to make doctors answer questions about their medical errors, the threat of a lawsuit. I have to wonder though how many other families there are who are repulsed by the necessity of having to talk about money in the same sentence where they utter the name of their dead loved one. For us, this has nothing to do with money, it's about finding truth. It's about making those who are responsible for medical errors finally step up to the plate to answer our questions.
What saddens and angers us, Dianne's family, is that we may not even have the possibility of a lawsuit. As I said earlier, Dianne had advanced lung cancer. Who knows how long she had left to live, months? Perhaps a year? The way the system operates now, her short term life expectancy translates into a life with little value and essentially cuts her family off from access to the truth about her death.
How can it be that even with an admission of responsibility by the hospital, Dianne's family may be powerless to change anything?
REP. STONE: Thank you very much. Does anyone have any questions? Thank you very much for your testimony.
Mark Braunstein. Good afternoon, Mark. The bell is going off, but your time's not up. Reset the thing, will you? Go ahead, Mark.
MARK BRAUNSTEIN: Hi. I was here last year. I'll very briefly go into my short medical history. I'm paraplegic from a diving accident in 1990. I have since then used marijuana, originally on a daily basis, but since then, the past three years I've been able to reduce my dosage to once every two or three days because the spasms and the pain accompanying the spasms, which I use to treat it, have decreased markedly, as well. So I've decreased my dosage accordingly.
My alternatives to marijuana, for the pain and spasms of spinal cord injury include narcotics for the pain, in the most extreme cases and I'll mention the ones you certainly would have heard of, are Demerol, Morphine, and Codeine. The side effects, additional, constipation, sedation. For the spasms, tranquilizers that you would have heard would be Dantrium and Valium. Side effects, liver failure, addiction, and insomnia.
Compared with those, I looked at marijuana as a herbal alternative, an herb that exists in nature and that I was able to use the way nature offered it. If you examine all drugs used for either pharmaceutical or recreational use, you see that the dangers occur when drugs are isolated, purified and the passage, for instance, opium, the poppy to herion is why you have such problems, it's a refined white powder. Well marijuana, in the form that I've chosen to use it, the flowers and the leaves, have very little or few undesirable side effects or risks. And so because of that, I've adhered to my regiment and I've done it with the approval of both of my naturopathic and allopath doctors. The allopath, who is my spinal injury specialists is one of the signatories to the list of 500 physicians in the State of Connecticut who have endorsed medicinal use of marijuana as an option for patients such as myself.
Beyond all that, that's just, I think, the ethicacy of its use is something that probably by now no longer an issue, but rather the judicial implications in terms of law enforcement of other laws concerning drugs and I realize that's really the question.
Just keep in mind that wherever in the eight states that marijuana has been up for a referendum by voter approval has always passed, not to mention the three other states where it was by legislation. So in the State of Connecticut where we don't have referendums, there was a poll conducted, I believe it was two years ago and 70% of the people polled said that they would approve of such a measure to legalize its use. And I heard the bell go off.
Thank you very much.
REP. STONE: Thank you, Mark, for your testimony. Does anyone have any questions? I just have one. Did the doctor -- you indicated that you had a certain dosage once a day and that now has been reduced to once every two or three days because your spasms have become less intensive or less frequent.
MARK BRAUNSTEIN: That's right, less frequent.
REP. STONE: Has any medical doctor related that to the marijuana use or is that because of other factors?
MARK BRAUNSTEIN: I don't know. I haven't really found an explanation for that. I have -- in thirteen years plus injury, I still have recovery, but that's not like a medical miracle. There's actual logical explanations. I also have (inaudible) injury and that's what has regenerated over these past thirteen years.
REP. STONE: Okay, thank you, Mark, for your testimony. Jessica Jagger.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: (INAUDIBLE-NOT SPEAKING INTO A MICROPHONE)
REP. STONE: Sure. We have several representatives from CONNSACS who will testify as a group and save us some time, I hope.
LISA WINJUM: I hope we can cut the twelve minutes to six.
REP. STONE: That's fair enough.
LISA WINJUM: Thanks. And I'm just going to start and then turn things over to these three young women.
My name is Lisa Winjum and I'm the Director of Public Policy and Communications for CONNSAC. We've submitted written testimony on several bills. I'm going to turn things over to Jess and let her speak first and then I'll speak after Jess and Liza and Amy have finished.
JESSICA JAGGER: Thank you. My name is Jessica Jagger. I am from Middletown and I'm a constituent of Representative Serra. I want to thank you for the opportunity to be here today and I simply want to say that I am neither a victim nor an expert in this field. I'm merely a citizen and I believe that it is good legislation and I ask that you will support it. The funding now is less than it was for CONNSACS in 1990 and I think that clearly we still have needs for these victims. I think this is an excellent way to provide funding for victim services and I hope that you will support the bill, H.B. 5296.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much. And Representative Serra is a member of this committee and he was unable to be here. There are other meetings going on, but I'm sure he either heard you or if you have testimony, that he'll be more than happy to read it.
JESSICA JAGGER: It's submitted.
REP. STONE: Okay, very good.
JESSICA JAGGER: Thank you very much.
REP. STONE: Thank you.
LIZA ANDREWS: Hi. My name is Liza Andrews. I am also here in support of H.B. 5296. I have, in the past, interned within the CONNSACS program and as a crisis counselor there. I did see the problems that we, as a state, face with sexual assault. I saw the pain of victims, as well as the limit to our resources to help them.
This bill will result in a great way to support the efforts of those who work with victims and I do urge you to pass this.
AMY LINKOVICH: Good afternoon. My name is Amy Linkovich. I'm a student at the UConn School of Social Work and an intern at CONNSACS. I'm here to support H.B. 5358, AN ACT ESTABLISHING A PERMANENT INTERAGENCY TASK FORCE ON TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS. Our CONNSACS member centers have submitted written testimony describing some of their encounters with trafficked victims, but I just want to highlight one particularly horrifying case.
A young woman, a 21 year old woman recently contacted the Women and Family Center in Meriden. She had just escaped from a life of sexual slavery. This woman had been trafficked domestically from state to state since she was five years old and for sixteen years, she was held as a virtual slave.
Fortunately, she was able to escape. She's receiving assistance from the Women and Family Center, but there are so many more individuals who have not been able to receive this help ---
(Inaudible-tape switched from side 2B to side 3A, some testimony/dialogue not recorded)
AMY LINKOVICH: --- keeps many victims from coming forward and seeking help. We need to create an interagency task force to address this problem.
I urge you to support this bill. Thank you.
LISA WINJUM: The last comments I wanted to make to you, as a committee, are that sexual assault victims really are a very silent constituency, a very hidden constituency and we do have these two bills that we're supporting, H.B. 5296, AN ACT CONCERNING A SEXUAL ASSAULT SERVICES TRUST FUND and H.B. 5357, AN ACT CONCERNING SEXUAL ASSAULT RESTRAINING ORDERS.
And I just wanted to let you know that with regard to the restraining order issues, I know some language concerns have come up and I think language concerns can always be resolved. What is the best use of my time is to let you know that we've had a lot of conversations with our community-based programs regarding the obstacles that sexual assault victims face in trying to obtain restraining orders and we also studied a recent report by the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs which recommends stand alone restraining orders, civil restraining orders for sexual assault victims.
What I would like to say to you is that if you could really read several of our member centers have submitted written testimony, anecdotes about the problems that they have faced with victims. A woman, a landlord raped by a tenant, unable to obtain a restraining order. Goes back in a few weeks later, a few winks and nods. We live in the same dwelling and suddenly able to obtain a restraining order.
Another woman raped by a person known to her. He then took up some stalking behavior. She had reported the crime to the police. There had been no arrest yet. In the end, she was raped a second time before he was arrested and a restraining order was issued.
So I really just want to let you know there is a big need out here for those kinds of orders for sexual assault victims who don't qualify in our family violence laws.
And thank you and I'd be happy to answer any questions.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much for your testimony and to all of you for your testimony. Does anyone have questions? Yes, Representative McMahon.
REP. MCMAHON: I was just looking at your paperwork and I noticed, although agreeing with the philosophical intention of H.B. 5444, I wonder if you might just tell me a little about your objections.
LISA WINJUM: Sure. And in fact, I was going to jump in and say I did want to point out that we're not supporting H.B. 5444. We do agree. We certainly -- in theory that young offenders shouldn't be treated as an adult, that they should have access to treatment options, all those things. Our concerns really come from some of the work that we've done in the juvenile justice system, having a victim advocate or at least a contract for a victim advocate in the sex offender -- juvenile sex offender treatment units here in the State. And what we've really found is that we don't think that juvenile offenders are being held -- sexual offenders, not all juvenile offenders, but in particular, juvenile sex offenders, being held accountable, that they're not necessarily getting appropriate sex offender evaluations and sex offender treatment and certainly that victims and their advocates are denied an opportunity to participate meaningfully in the proceedings and access information.
And based on those concerns, it's very hard for us to support this proposal because it would allow serious offense, sexual assault in the first degree to potentially be transferred down to juvenile court and all offenders, regardless of whether they're a juvenile, should be held accountable.
REP. MCMAHON: Thank you.
REP. STONE: Thank you very much. Thank you, Representative McMahon.
Anyone else? Thank you for your testimony.
LISA WINJUM: Thank you.
REP. STONE: Sheila Amdur, followed by Doctor Nancy Sheehan.
SUSAN ZIMMERMAN: Good afternoon, members of the Judiciary Committee. Sheila Amdur asked me to appear in her place. She had to leave to make an appointment with another one of your colleagues.
I'm Susan Zimmerman. I represent FAVOR. We are an advocacy organization that supports families whose children have mental health needs. We are here to testify in support of H.B. 5297.
Rather than read the testimony, which Sheila has submitted and it's in your packets, I would direct you to testimony, written testimony also in your packets from Jacqueline Rivera who is a parent whose child is now at Long Lane and her testimony details how the system that was supposed to keep her child out of juvenile justice, didn't work for her.
Our concern is that we're hearing stories from families, continue to hear these stories from families and that we do need to be aware of investment in the community-based services that will help families stay together and keep kids from going into the juvenile justice system.
We believe that H.B. 5297 addresses the services and the sanctions needed to help youngsters and their families.
Thank you. Do you have any questions?
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Are there any questions from members of the committee? Thank you very much.
Next is Dr. Nancy Sheehan, followed by Geraldine Pearson.
DR. NANCY SHEEHAN: I am testifying today in support of H.B. 5355 as a widow, a physician, and a mother of a nine year old. I've been in practice in primary care medicine in Connecticut for over twenty years. And during that time, I have been in contact with numerous patients that could have potentially benefited from using medical marijuana based on what was outlined in the 1999 IOM report.
But I was most profoundly affected and it was most clearly brought home the need for medical marijuana when my husband developed colon cancer, stage four, at fifty-four years of age. He was an extremely healthy, vibrant, active person who ate right, exercised, didn't drink or smoke, but had one risk factor for colon cancer which was Crohn's Disease. He came through the surgery in flying colors and we believed that he could beat the disease even though the cancer had gone through the bowel wall.
Next came seven months of chemotherapy. Because with stage four, your prognosis is just about zilch if you don't do chemotherapy. But even with me being a physician and being aware of the side effects of chemotherapy, I had no idea how bad it was going to be. Within one day of receiving his chemotherapy, he would be unable to leave the couch due to nausea and headaches and wasn't even able to sleep because of the side effects interfering with him being able to go to sleep.
He was unable to eat due to the nausea and the lack of appetite, even though I knew that not eating was really hurting him even more because he was losing weight and that was affecting his body's ability to fight off the disease.
His Oncologist tried numerous prescription medications, including Marinol, all of which did nothing. And his life had become pure torture and he began wondering whether it was worth going on living.
I, as a physician and a wife, saw marijuana make my husband's life tolerable and changing his will to live. A friend of his gave him some marijuana to see if maybe it could help him and it did. He was able to come back to life. It controlled the nausea and brought back his appetite. It greatly alleviated his pain and he was able to get off the couch and continue to work on our house, which he was in the midst of renovating.
He was able to make it through his seven months of chemotherapy, at which point he was found to not have any evidence of disease. It came back with a vengeance, unfortunately in January of 2002. He continued to battle it, although the odds were not good and the marijuana helped him tolerate the great pain and nausea that came from the disease itself. He still wanted to live.
He then died in August of 2002 at home in peace. There's no doubt in my mind that marijuana made his life worth living when no other medication could do that.
We had two more years of life, not just existence together. I believe that any patient, with the agreement of the physician, feels that their medical condition could be helped by marijuana, should have the possibility of using marijuana without the fear of prosecution. So I would ask you to please vote for this bill. I really believe that to do otherwise sentences many people and their loved ones who already have had much suffering to a miserable existence.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much for your testimony. Do any members of the committee have any questions? Thank you.
Next is Geraldine Pearson, followed by Liza Andrews. Ms. Pearson? Ms. Andrews? After Ms. Andrews is Melissa Karcz.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: (INAUDIBLE-NOT SPEAKING INTO A MICROPHONE) on a client call and she's going to come later if she can make it. And since Liza went with us, Marisa is going to just take this (inaudible)
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay.
MARISA LILLIDAHL: Senator McDonald, Representative Lawlor, distinguished members of the Judiciary Committee.
I'm here before you today to testify in support of raised H.B. 5296, AN ACT REGARDING A SEXUAL ASSAULT SERVICE TRUST FUND. What I have to say, many of you may not want to hear, but I am asking you to open your eyes and look at me. I am a woman, I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am a granddaughter, I am a niece, and most importantly, I am alive today to tell my story.
I often hear people say, "I've never met a person who has been sexually assaulted." Well, it's a pleasure meeting all of you today. My name is Marisa Lillidahl and I am a survivor.
I came to Hartford wanting to make a difference. Some may call this idealistic, but for me, it's a reality. The trauma I have endured has left many scars, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
But somehow I've managed to fight the fight, confront my demons and realize that memories are indeed just memories.
I cannot change the past no matter how hard I try and I am unable to predict what the future may bring, but I have finally learned to live in the present, choosing to live in freedom, rather than in fear.
The proposal before you is of extreme importance. Women throughout the State of Connecticut need and deserve support, treatment, and advocacy to heal from the wounds of sexual assault. This bill recognizes that funding for these services is imperative and that offenders should be held financially accountable for the harm suffered by victims.
When I was sexually assaulted four years ago, I did not know what to do or where to go for help. I did not tell anyone what had happened to me until two years after I was raped. Today, I know that there is help available. Rape crisis centers can and do help many survivors heal.
Unfortunately, state funding for these programs is at its lowest levels since 1990. The funds that can be generated by the proposed fine will be used to help build the capacity of centers to respond to victims and to engage others in strengthening the overall community's response to victims of sexual assault.
I leave you with these words I often find myself saying when the memories return and the light at the end of the tunnel seems so far away. Believe in the power of believing, believe in something, anything that gives you the courage and the strength to continue on when it would be so easy to give up. Believe that you have choices and that you can choose wisely. Above all, believe in yourself. When something seems truly unbelievable, it maybe worth believing.
And once again, I urge you to please support raised H.B. 5296, AN ACT REGARDING A SEXUAL ASSAULT SERVICE TRUST FUND.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much for your testimony and for your courage for coming forward today. I appreciate it very much.
MARISA LILLIEDAHL: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Do any members of the committee have any questions? Thank you.
MARISA LILLIEDAHL: Thank you very much.
SEN. MCDONALD: Next is Greg Cichowski, followed by Rosanna Barnaby.
GREGORY CICHOWSKI: Good afternoon, distinguished legislators. My name is Gregory Cichowski. I'm a licensed pharmacist and have practiced pharmacy here in the State of Connecticut for over thirty years and I'm here to speak to you about the act concerning the medical use of marijuana.
I had prepared a written statement which unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to get here on time before the cutoff, the deadline and I will have a copy of it for you later on during the week. That statement was more of a technical nature describing and comparing the ethicacy of the traditional medications versus the inhaled form of marijuana.
What I'd like to speak to you, however, is from a personal experience and point of view of a friend of mine who, 2-1/2 years ago, came to me. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which, unfortunately, is a death sentence. There is very little survival. This patient was devastated, as was his family. I told him that as a pharmacist I would attempt to work with him and his family, along with his doctor to help him to be comfortable and to understand the maximum, most (inaudible) to use his medications.
He began chemotherapy. He was put on a drug called Gensitavene which is a very powerful drug which retards the or attempts to retard the growth of the tumor, the cancer tumor. It has, however, major side effects, including nausea and vomiting, eruption of skin ulcers, spasms, muscle and nerve pain. He suffered from all of these. He was treated for these side effects with your traditional medications which include Oxycotin, it's a form of a pain medication. For break-through pain, he was treated with Percocet. For muscle spasms, he was given other types of medications. All these medications had their side effects. But to my dismay and discouragement, they were not effective in helping him through this course of chemotherapy.
His son came back from California and brought with him marijuana. And told his father he wanted him to use that and he did. I observed, over the remaining months of time, that he lived, that the time that he used the medical marijuana, it made all the difference for him. The nausea and the vomiting were greatly reduced. His appetite was diminished, but marijuana has, as a side effect, increasing appetite and this was very effective in helping him, as well.
All I would like to say is that my eyes were opened to where I was trained in traditional medicine that there are other options that should be available to patients in conjunction with treatment by their doctors, approval by their doctors that should be available to them if it's necessary to help them enhance the quality of the remaining years of their life.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much.
GREGORY CICHOWSKI: If you have any technical questions, you had some earlier about Marinol and the others, I'd be happy to answer them.
SEN. MCDONALD: Do any members of the committee have any questions? Thank you.
GREGORY CHICHOWSKI: You're welcome.
SEN. MCDONALD: Next is Rosanna Barnaby, followed by Karen D'Angelo.
ROSANNA BARNABY: Good afternoon. I am a licensed clinical social worker in Connecticut and I'm also a social worker consultant to the Center for Children's Advocacy and I'm here to testify on two raised bills.
The first being H.B. 5292, regarding disproportionate minority representation in the juvenile justice system. And this issue, of course, is one that we are well acquainted with and just put some basic background. Twenty-five percent of the children in Connecticut are youth of color, yet 75% of the children in our juvenile justice settings are children of color and this is something that's happening nationwide. It's not just something that's a problem in Connecticut.
And with this bill, one of the things that is critical is that we find a way to implement reforms that will address this issue and one way to do that would be to provide some community mapping so that we can tell where incidents are happening, where children are being arrested, what the incidents are, how they're getting into the juvenile justice system and then from there, being able to determine what sorts of reforms might be needed.
The other critical part of this legislation is that in terms of providing services to these children, we must provide it in a way that's culturally competent and in a lot of other states, for example, in Santa Cruz, what they've done is they've looked at providing culturally competent training to the staff in juvenile justice services so that they're able to talk to children and families who might speak another language or be from another country and understand their culture and from that basis, be able to determine which ways to intervene with the family.
And that's one thing that we think would be critical in Connecticut, as well.
The other part that would be critical to reforming our system would be to look at providing some way of providing decision-making at all points in the system that's race neutral. So, for example, if we know that there are particular circumstances that poor children of color find themselves in, if these are circumstances that are in our risk assessments, for example, saying a child who comes from a single parent family and a risk assessment has a higher rating than by that consequence we're saying that that child, just by nature of being a child of color, being poor is more of a risk to the community as opposed to looking at the actual behavior.
So, in other words, that contributes to the disproportionality. So those are things that we would like to look at.
Also, providing alternatives to incarceration. One of the things that we are quite conscience of is that we have to look at doing things in a cost effective way and what we have found that in several jurisdictions, for example, in Oregon where children in detention cost the State $200 per day on average, through using alternative programs, they were able to reduce some of those costs of $50 a day and, of course, that included using some risk assessment factors to look at whether or not these children should be in the community or whether or not they did present a risk to the community and looking at that as well as providing the alternatives, they were able to reduce the number of youth of color in secure detention, as well as reduce the cost to the State.
So that's one thing that we would like to propose.
With regard to the second bill, which would be H.B. 5297, that one regards status offenders and what we have found is that status offenders, for the most part, when you start to look at the histories, do have some mental health issues. And what I will share is just a brief example from my own clinical practice.
I had a young man who was fourteen years old who was being bullied constantly on his way to school, being bullied by other students. And he sought help, he didn't get any help and what ended up happening was he decided not to go to school. Not going to school, causing truancy charges. After having the truancy charges, he got involved in the juvenile justice system. I'll wrap it up. And from there, he started to have altercations within the programs he was in and got more and more severe charges.
So he ended up being a child who went from being a victim to being a child who was incarcerated.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Do any members of the committee have any questions? Thank you for your testimony.
ROSANNA BARNABY: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Next is Karen D'Angelo, followed by Ned Pocengalo. How are you?
KAREN D'ANGELO: Hi. Good afternoon. My name is Karen D'Angelo and I am a student at the University of Connecticut working towards my Masters Degree in Social Work.
I currently work at a nursing home which treats the HIV/AIDS population. I'm here to show my support for Connecticut raised H.B. 5355, AN ACT CONCERNING THE MEDICAL USE OF MARIJUANA.
I believe that marijuana is a drug that has beneficial medicinal effects for some people and that because of that issue, it should be a legal treatment option for doctors to recommend. This time last week, I laid in bed wondering how I was going to manage meeting my daily commitments. I was upset that I could not make it to work and disappointed because I now have lost this entirely productive day. Dizzy and nauseated, I had trouble even making it down the hallway. Fortunately, my bedroom was located near my family's bathroom because every time I needed to vomit, I didn't have too far to go.
My high fever created constant hot and cold sweats. My body ached for days and I'm just now returning to my normal diet. I felt absolutely awful.
Luckily for me, my misery lasted only 48 hours and I had the common gastro-intestinal virus that often runs through our society this time of year.
After a couple of days, I was able to return to work and school and my body is gradually improving back to its normal healthy state. However, when I was confined to my bed helpless and feeling sorry for myself, I realized gosh, this is the every day reality for the population with whom I work.
The skilled nursing facility where I intern provides care for about 40 patients diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. Short and long term care is offered and most often we provide palliative treatment, respite care, and acute, interim care. The services which I offer include individual counseling and a treatment group. Additionally, I'm part of an inter-disciplinary team which assesses residents' holistic health and makes collective decisions in their care.
The population with whom I work is often exceptionally ill. Patients sometimes struggle with extreme weight loss through their physical inability to digest nourishing food, and because of their lack of appetite. Additionally, many report having severe abdominal pain. Several patients also are paraplegics who suffer from numbness and pain in their lower extremities. These assiduous symptoms stem from both their chronic illness and the effects of the drugs in which they take in order to stay alive.
Their lives are greatly affected by these symptoms and the majority of our residents are unable to regularly participate in daily routines.
Through my everyday work in the nursing facility, I am exposed to the patient-doctor relationship. Our medical providers work with each individual patient in order to tailor a treatment plan which best accommodates him or her. Medications are not generically administered to each member of the population. Instead, each patient's treatment plan is the consequence of his or her discussions with their doctor. Because each patient's medical issues are so unique, our doctors use a flexible variety of methods to treat patients. This variety allows our medical providers to provide the best care possible for each patient.
With that understanding, I believe that marijuana needs to be added to the array of medications which doctors are able to suggest for their patients. I know that if were ever to be as ill and as uncomfortable as the clients with whom I work are, I would hope that my government would support me in getting the most appropriate treatment as possible, which may be marijuana.
Thank you for listening.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you for your testimony. Are there any questions? Thanks very much.
Next is Ned Pocengalo. I apologize is I brutalized it.
NED POCENGALO: Good afternoon, Senator McDonald, members of the committee. I'm here to testify in support of raised H.B. 5355, AN ACT CONCERNING THE MEDICAL USE OF MARIJUANA.
I want to thank the members of the committee for continuing to work on this controversial legislation for the past several years and for continuing your efforts to achieve justice, compassion, and peace for those people like myself who find that marijuana is a safe and effective medicine.
As this is my third time testifying before this committee on the matter of medical marijuana, I hope that this time reason will prevail and the legislation, as amended, will move forward and become law, hence making my future visits to Hartford a source of pleasure rather than anxiety.
I also hope that some of the opponents of this legislation will, through repeated exposure to me, a regular user of medical marijuana, come to see that medicinal marijuana does not pose a threat to the safety or health of the people of Connecticut nor will the regulated use of medicinal marijuana undermine the orderliness of the State.
In fact, the reality of medical marijuana legislation in other states where it enjoys overwhelming support, as polls suggest it does in Connecticut too, shows that marijuana is beneficial for many people living with chronic severe medical conditions.
My interest in this issue goes back to 1987 when I was experiencing a severe bout of Crone's Disease and then found out that not only did I have chronic Hepatitis B, but that I was HIV positive, as well.
After trying various prescription drugs to treat my Crone's Disease, while sharing treatment of my HIV, a friend suggested that I try smoking marijuana. Aside from the general sense of well being or the much maligned euphoria that marijuana produces, I found almost immediate relief from my symptoms.
As a result, I have been able to completely eliminate my dependence on expensive and toxic pharmaceuticals used to treat Crone's and I've enjoyed complete remission for more than ten years.
The benefit effects of marijuana as medicine was reaffirmed to me most recently when I underwent two surgeries to have a growth removed from my urethra. Male members of the committee may wince in sympathy. My surgeon prescribed me Oxycotin, the infamous hill-billy herion, to treat the pain. However, I found that smoked marijuana has fewer side effects, again the dreaded "euphoria" while being a remarkably effect pain killer.
In addition, I recently started a drug regiment to treat my HIV and Hepatitis B infections. These drugs, as you may be aware, are extremely potent and potentially debilitating and have very severe side effects. Stoteva, one of the drugs I'm taking is particularly known for its ability to upset one's mental state. Many people have to abandon its use due to its negative psychological effects. Again, I have found the calming effect of marijuana has allowed me to function normally without the need to resort to sleeping pills or anti-depressants.
Return to the issue at hand, the bill being considered here today has many merits which make it worthy of your support. Its stated purpose is clear. The removal of criminal sanctions for possession and use of medical marijuana, the provisions for cultivating one's own supply, and the protection of physicians who, in conjunction with their patients, conclude that marijuana is indeed appropriate, effective medicine, are unnecessary modifications to the existing law.
Most importantly, justice, compassion and peace call upon the members of this committee and the Legislature to see that this bill becomes law.
Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to speak on this issue. I appreciate your support.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you and hopefully, the third time is the charm. Are there any questions from members of the committee? Representative Hamzy.
REP. HAMZY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just have a couple of questions out of curiosity more than anything else. When you smoke the marijuana, is it usually at night? Is it in the morning? When does it usually happen?
NED POCENGALO: It's usually in the evening. That's when most people take their Susteva because the effects of it really don't allow you to work. It can cause mental confusion, delirium. One of the other drugs that I'm taking, which is a common drug for people who have HIV has an unreported side effect, my doctor told me, of full blown psychosis. So fortunately, I'm assuming that marijuana has helped diminish that effect, as well.
So it's not like I'm getting high and driving to work or going to work high. I mean, I wouldn't even describe the amount of marijuana I use as intoxicating.
REP. HAMZY: And you take it in combination with other prescribed medications?
NED POCENGALO: Yes. I take a regiment of three drugs for HIV in addition to regular vitamin supplements and a healthy diet.
REP. HAMZY: And you find that when you take it once in the evening, it has the effect of subsiding whatever pain or other symptoms you may have for the entire next day?
NED POCENGALO: It allows me to sleep through the evening, yes.
REP. HAMZY: Oh. So that what it's permanently --
NED POCENGALO: Yes, primarily, yeah. It's effective for me.
REP. HAMZY: Okay, thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Any other questions? Thank you very much.
Next is Shawn Lang, followed by Alice Farrell. Mr. Lang? Ms. Farrell? Merva Jackson.
CELESTINO JIMENEZ: Good afternoon. My name is Celestino Jimenez and I am speaking instead of Ms. Merva Jackson.
SEN. MCDONALD: Good afternoon.
CELESTINO JIMENEZ: (inaudible) for children and families, I believe it is crucial to (inaudible) and intervention and treatment to more effectively prevent (inaudible) develop more productive citizens and provide less expensive alternatives to incarceration and detention.
The following bills all serve to promote these goals. We strongly endorse raised H.B. 5297, AN ACT CONCERNING THE NEEDS OF JUVENILE STATUS OFFENDERS AND STATUS OFFENDER VIOLATORS which will improve behavioral health treatment for FSN and youth in crisis children in the State of Connecticut and save money by decreasing recidivism and the number of youths in both the juvenile justice system.
H.B. 5292, AN ACT CONCERING THE REDUCTION OF DISPORPORTIONATE MINORITY REPRESENTATION IN THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM will address the disproportionate confinement of minority youth through the application of state of the art methods of assessing the special needs of minority communities and through the development of community-based services targeted to reach those families whose needs have not been met by traditional social service practices.
H.B. 5294, AN ACT CONCERNING A JUVENILE JUSTICE PLAN FOR GIRLS addresses the significant service gap and discrepancy in the continuum of care for girls in the juvenile justice system between the need of intensive crisis (inaudible) assessment, and treatment and the system's current ability to meet these demands.
I have been working with youth since 1975 in the City. I have been privileged to create collaboration with community (inaudible) and the (inaudible) a young offenders program in the City of Hartford that works out of Lafayette. And also, I have been privileged to create a (inaudible) school in collaboration with CBIA (inaudible) that is located on Locust Street.
I am your neighbor. I live in Frog Hollow where violent (inaudible) is great every day and I believe that all of these issues will address violence in the City.
Thank you for your time.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you, sir. Do we have any questions from members of the committee? Thank you.
CELESTINO JIMENEZ: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Fernando Muniz, followed by Fay Evans. Good afternoon, sir.
FERNANDO MUNIZ: Good afternoon, Senator McDonald, distinguished members of the committee. My name is Fernando Muniz. I'm the Executive Director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance.
Our mission is to promote a safe, effective and equitable service continuum for children and adolescents in or at risk or involvement in the juvenile justice system.
It is in this context that the Juvenile Justice Alliance is supportive of raised H.B. 5292, H.B. 5294, and H.B. 5297.
In the inference of time, I'm going to limit my comments to raised H.B. 5292, AN ACT CONCERNING THE REDUCTION OF DISPORPORTIONATE MINORITY REPRESENTATION IN THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM.
The Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance is supportive of raised H.B. 5292 and any effort to reduce disproportionate minority representation in confinement in the juvenile justice system. In its 2002 study of juvenile justice system in greater Bridgeport, our juvenile justice task force noted that African American and Latino youth represent about 20% of the general population in Bridgeport. However, 66% of youth on probation, and 79% of youth in detention in Bridgeport are African American or Latino. Similar trends exist throughout the State.
In their 2001 report entitled, "A Reassessment of Minority Over-Representation in Connecticut Juvenile Justice System" which was funded by our own Office of Policy and Management, Spectrum Associates clearly outlined several key points relative to this issue. These are over-representation cannot be explained by differences in delinquent behavior across racial or ethnic groups. Disparities in system processing of minority youth occur in most states even when controlling for social and legal background variables. And finally, most importantly for us here in Connecticut, while disporportionality has decreased slightly in our State over the past decade, Black and Latino youth are still three times more likely than White youth to be placed in detention or incarcerated.
In 1997, minority youth comprised 83% of commitments to public facilities and 77% of detention placements in Connecticut. Efforts over the past ten years to reduce disproportionate minority representation have been insufficient.
To further reduce disporportionality, Connecticut must conduct a comprehensive community mapping process such as the one outlined in Section 2 of this bill. Reductions in other jurisdictions such as Seattle, Kansas City, and San Jose can all be attributed to a better understanding through a process of community mapping.
I will close by saying last year our organization held a forum here across the hallway in the Capitol in which James Bell, the Executive Director of the Hayward Burns Institute outlined such a process and how it could be used to better understand disproportionate minority confinement and how it's been used to reduce that confinement in other jurisdictions.
And one of the promising models that we would propose looking at, which is used in similar systems, is Seattle and also Missouri which has all the elements that I think the Legislature would be looking for. Their system is smaller, it's more cost effective, and it gets better results. I think it can be done and I think the youth of Connecticut deserve better.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. Are there any questions? Thank you. Next is Fay Evans, followed by Charisa Smith. No Fay Evans? Okay. Charisa Smith, followed by Marisa Lilliedahl.
MICHELE GARCIA: May I do a six minute panel with Michele? She's also on the list?
SEN. MCDONALD: Well actually, is Marisa Lilliedahl here?
REP. LAWLOR: She already spoke.
SEN. MCDONALD: She already spoke. Okay. And your name is?
MICHELLE GARCIA: Michele Garcia.
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, you're next up anyway. So feel free.
MICHELLE GARCIA: My name is Michele Garcia and together with Charisa Smith, testifying on behalf of the Advocates for Connecticut's Children and Youth. We are students at Yale Law School and participants in the Yale Legislative Adequacy Clinic.
We support H.B. 5292, H.B. 5294, H.B. 5297, and H.B. 5444 for their combined approach to the juvenile justice system.
Together they begin to create a fiscally efficient, comprehensive juvenile justice system based on programs that more competently address the mental, behavioral, and abuse driven needs of the children in the system.
None of these bills could be sufficient independently because of the complexity of delinquency.
For many, effect solutions to juvenile justice problems requires a comprehensive plan, yet Connecticut has no such plan. A full assessment of the needs of the youth currently in the juvenile justice system and implementation of a plan to most effectively meet those needs would not only reduce recidivism and promote healthy youth development, but should actually save Connecticut dollars.
A well integrated and targeted system will reduce spending on less effective programs such as detention centers that cost over $5,000 per youth and expand investments in community-based services that could cost as little as $825 per youth and more effectively reduce recidivism.
Moreover, creating a comprehensive juvenile justice plan will help Connecticut secure and retain federal funding.
A crucial component to a comprehensive juvenile justice plan is the creation of individualized and culturally competent programming. Culturally competent and multi-lingual staff are crucial to reducing disproportionate minority representation in the juvenile justice system. Offending youth respond more positively when the system reflects their diverse backgrounds and minority families will be increasingly willing to work with service personnel who understand their cultures.
Culturally competent programming is equally crucial to juveniles charged with sexual offenses. Child sex offenders are highly traumatized and a socially isolated population among delinquents. Programs seeking to reduce recidivism and more effectively reform these offenders must include treatment addressing possible past abuses and mental health needs.
Sadly, although most child sex offenders have backgrounds of abuse, family instability, violence, or neglect, they are also among the least likely to self report their histories of victimization. Placing child sex offenders in adult prisons would only exacerbate their problems by emerging them in a prison culture wrought with gangs and survivalism and to significantly less access to programs in juvenile justice facilities. Moreover, children in adult prisons are over 500 times more likely to be sexually assaulted and eight times more likely to commit suicide.
Finally, a culturally competent programming is necessary for the juvenile justice plan for girls. Although girls comprise 40% of Connecticut's juvenile justice population, they're held for largely non-violent crimes and status offenses in a system that was largely created for the needs of male offenders.
Female juvenile offenders have special needs and the most effective programs are those that recognize and address their cultural differences from their male counterparts and the types and reasons behind their offenses. Such programs recognize and address female adolescent development, a highly likelihood of fleeing sexual abuse and undergoing substance abuse, low self esteem, and deep seeded mistrust issues.
CHARISA SMITH: These bills are also collectively crucial because delinquents overwhelmingly have unmet mental health needs and suffer from abuse and neglect. H.B. 5294 mentions girls' behavioral health and is key because over two-thirds of female offenders are fleeing sexual or other abuse and are three to five times more likely to attempt suicide.
Yet this bill won't respond to the fact that at least 62% of all juvenile detainees in Connecticut suffer from untreated mental health needs. As child sex offenders are twice as likely to have been abused and also likely to be raped in adult facilities, H.B. 5444 must be passed to treat them as troubled youth.
Passage of all of these juvenile bills should assure that Connecticut decreases the unacceptable number of offenders confined due to a lack of mental health treatment options regardless of their gender, race or offense.
Another theme we raise today is that given the high correlation between delinquency, unmet mental health needs, and family trauma, a pilot program within DCF called Error Access Centers should be adopted. An idea emerging within DCF and the child advocacy community is the need for regional access agencies explicitly married in the agency's three statutory mandates of child protection, juvenile justice, and behavioral health. The access agency would be a single point of entry, care coordination and accountability. An access agency would play a lead role coordinating locally organized managed systems of care to provide integrated service delivery for all children, whether referred to DCF as an abused child, a child with mental health needs, or a child adjudicated delinquent.
This initiative, which should be piloted in several DCF regions before being implemented statewide, will assure better treatment of services for delinquents. Unified data gathered in assessments by access agencies serving all DCF youth will decrease the chance that a traumatized runaway violating a court order would be evaluated by separate agencies and never have the (inaudible-background noise) compiled to accurately identify her needs and match them with clinically appropriate care.
While a single agency keeps records of youth across various systems, it will also more easily identify mismanagement, misdiagnoses, improper service delivery, and funding misallocations.
Today's juvenile bills must all be passed because they will reduce Connecticut's over-reliance on secure confinement and accelerate the development of less restrictive more cost effective appropriate programs.
The New England Juvenile Offender Center found that Connecticut has the highest number of youth under eighteen in secure facilities out of all states. (inaudible) that confinement exacerbates offenders' problems, the environmental stress, isolation, increased suicide risk and exposure to more serious offenders.
Other states' experience shows that recidivism among all delinquents decreases when states opt for community-based systems. In Missouri's community-based system, youth recidivate at about 9% compared to recidivism as high as 30% in institutional settings.
Studies in Connecticut show that home treatment models like multi-system therapy, MST, reduces arrest and is an out-of-home placement. Connecticut's Judicial Department of Court Support Services became committed to MST in all its programs for 2003-2004. All Connecticut youth would benefit from more home-based programs rather than detention and confinement.
Thank you for your time. We hope you will pass all the aforementioned bills acting boldly to address the six things crucial to effective juvenile justice, comprehensive planning, cultural competence, cost efficiency, addressing youth mental health needs, improving quality and coordination of services through DCF access agencies, and reduced secured confinement.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. And I apologize especially for everyone else watching. There's a lot of coming and going and you should be aware that in our offices we can monitor the testimony. This is what people do and this is also broadcast outside the building. And on top of that, a transcript is kept of all the testimony and that's part of the legislative history of all the bills and it's the kind of thing we refer to later on.
So, I only say that because sometimes people are discouraged when there are only a few people here and they assume that maybe their words are being lost, but they're really not. They really do become a part of the subsequent legislative deliberations. So unfortunately, this is a day where there's quite a few other things happening and we do apologize for the distractions. So that's for everyone's benefits, since you guys stayed late and we'll be here until the end.
In any event, are there any questions? Representative Hamm.
REP. HAMM: Thank you for all ---
(inaudible-tape switched from side 3A to side 3B - some testimony/dialogue not recorded)
REP. HAMM: --- for girls, for adolescent teen girls. Would you share with me what has popped out as far as the ones that have most impressed you so that we can find them, perhaps as a model? I'm understanding Missouri and Oregon.
CHARISA SMITH: There's also some testimony that we submitted for you, but there's also a couple of programs. One is called FITT. The other is called PACE.
REP. HAMM: It's called FITT? Is that what --
CHARISA SMITH: Yes. It's actually --
REP. HAMM: I'll find it because I have that.
CHARISA SMITH: And what jumped out at me about that program was that it not only -- because girls tend to be status offenders, more likely tend to be status offenders, they really tried to deter the system from placing these girls in detention centers. And instead, it's a residential facility and it concentrates on helping girls develop skills that they may not have had before entering the facility such as more education. A lot of these girls tend to be teen mothers still learning those types of life skills. Trying to have them form solid relationships, which many girls have not had in the past and can lead to these problems and emotional self esteem.
REP. HAMM: Did you share either of those models with CCSD? Are they aware of them? Are they expressing an interest in looking at them?
CHARISA SMITH: No, we haven't actually given out research to CCSD yet, but we'd be happy to.
REP. HAMM: Well they certainly should see it. Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Other questions? If not, thank you very much.
CHARISA SMITH: Thank you.
MICHELLE GARCIA: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Next is Bet Gailor. And Bet will be followed by Nora Duncan. Is Nora Duncan here? And then Brette Logan. Is Brette Logan here? Okay. And Kathleen Carrier. Is Kathleen here? Okay. Alright, go ahead.
BET GAILOR: My name is Bet Gailor and I am an attorney in the Children at Risk Unit of Connecticut Legal Services. The Children at Risk Unit provides legal representation to low income families who have children with disabilities, primarily to assist them in obtaining access to special education and other mental health services.
In recent years, we've represented an increasing number of children with disabilities in juvenile courts throughout the State.
I'm here today to urge you to adopt H.B. 5297, AN ACT CONCERNING THE NEEDS OF JUVENILE STATUS OFFENDER VIOLATORS. Connecticut Legal Services supports this bill because we believe passage of this bill would lead to better outcomes for Connecticut's children.
H.B. 5297 requires that DCF and Court Support Services Division cooperatively develop and implement a protocol for the screening and assessment of children with behavioral health needs who are before the court on family with service needs petitions pursuant to General Statute 46b-129, 46b-149, excuse me. 46b-149 gives juvenile court judges broad authority to enter an order regulating a child's conduct including school attendance. Often a child with poor school attendance whose mental health needs have not been identified will be referred to the court on a Family with Service Needs petition. If the court enters an order for the child to attend school and the child violates that order, the child may be adjudicated delinquent and processed in the same way as any other delinquent child in the juvenile justice system. Juvenile Court judges can and do place such status offenders in detention and secure facilities for violating orders to attend school and other programs.
Moreover, if a child has a delinquency matter pending before the Juvenile Court, it is more likely that he or she will be denied access to voluntary services from the DCF. This is because under DCF's own regulations, the child is ineligible for voluntary services, that is to say mental health services, if he or she has a delinquency matter pending unless the Commissioner grants an exception to that rule.
I give a citation to the regulations in my written testimony.
In light of the court's broad authority to enter such orders and the risk that mental health services will be denied if a delinquency matter is pending, the importance of the behavioral health assessment mandated by H.B. 5297 cannot be gained said.
As you are undoubtedly aware, there is a dearth of mental health services throughout the State, especially in eastern Connecticut and as a result, the mental health needs of many of our children go unmet despite the efforts of their parents or guardians to obtain treatment for them.
At Connecticut Legal Services, we see the impact of this mental health crisis on a daily basis and particularly in our representation in juvenile court. Many of the children we represent have significant mental illnesses, including reactive attachment disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, or other conditions that render them subject to Family With Service Needs petitions. Because their disabilities have been untreated, however, many of these children are simply unable to conform their conduct to the court's orders. As a result, they're more likely to be subject to continued exposure to the juvenile justice system and less likely to be given access to the mental health treatment they require.
Immediate screening and assessment mandated by this bill would enable the court to determine whether a child has mental health needs and to better decide what actions it ought to take to ensure that the child's needs are met.
Furthermore, it would ensure that an array of community-based health service and programs are available for these at risk children.
For these reasons, Connecticut Legal Services urges the committee to adopt this House bill.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you very much. Are there questions? If not, thank you.
Next is Nora Duncan. Nora Duncan.
NORA DUNCAN: Good evening. My name is Nora Duncan and I'm here today representing the many members of the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits that work with juvenile offenders in the community. CANP is supportive of raised H.B. 5292, H.B. 5294, and H.B. 5297.
Regarding H.B. 5292, we're supportive of any efforts to reduce disproportionate minority representation in the juvenile and the adult systems and I included some statistics on racial disparity that I will not go over right now, but it's in the testimony and lots have people have given you the same ones.
It seems that efforts to date have been insufficient in reducing racial disparity. You've heard so much in the last two weeks about the horrid racial disparities in the adult system and Connecticut must take this problem even more seriously now and remedy policies, practices, and social norms at the root of the problem in order to break the cycle that will make today's minority juvenile offenders tomorrow's DOC inmates.
Please note that the nonprofits have historically had a difficult time recruiting and retaining bilingual staff, particularly those with advanced degrees or licensure. The pool of applicants is limited and there is fierce recruitment competition for state agencies that are able to pay approximately 40% more for comparable work. I wanted to let you know this because it may make some of the compliance issues with this bill challenging for them.
H.B. 5294, Connecticut needs to address the crisis in juvenile justice girl services. CSSD and DCF have made some good steps towards doing so through collaborative work and proposals involving other state agencies in working to maximize federal dollars that will help the cause and get these girls the appropriate services that meet their complicated needs.
Regarding H.B. 5297. Connecticut needs meaningful alternatives to criminalizing status offenders. H.B. 5297 will ensure cooperation between CSSD and DCF by requiring a permanent protocol for assessing the behavioral health needs of youth who are members of FSN and YIC's. CSSD and DCF both screen and assess these needs and have worked hard to improve the system. But it is time for more a more formal evidenced based approach.
The two state agencies dealing with offenders need to speak the same language and then teach that to the nonprofits they contract with.
Important in this bill is the provision that probation officers in the court must utilize programs prior to ordering FSN's and YIC's into custody or commitment. This will work to limit the numbers of youth entering the juvenile justice system by offering comprehensive programming that allows for meaningful interventions and prevents incarceration.
I'm not even going to go through the closing, but I wanted to say something on a subject that I did come here to speak about. I did want to note that the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits does support H.B. 5296, AN ACT CONCERNING SEXUAL ASSAULT TRUST FUNDS, as well, for the record.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Are there questions? If not, thank you very much.
NORA DUNCAN: Thanks.
REP. LAWLOR: Next is Brette Logan. And after Brette is Kathleen Carrier, I guess was not here before. Is Kathleen not here? Bernetta Henry. Not here. Okay. Joyce Hamilton. Is Joyce here? Okay. And Beresford Wilson. Okay, alright. Thank you. Go ahead.
BRETTE LOGAN: Good afternoon, distinguished members of the Judiciary Committee. My name is Brette Logan. I am a second year law student at the University of Connecticut School of Law and I currently work at the Center for Children's Advocacy.
I'm here to testify on behalf of raised H.B. 5294, AN ACT CONCERNING A JUVENILE JUSTICE PLAN FOR GIRLS. The Center supports this bill because it addresses two deficiencies that exist in the girls' juvenile justice system. One, there is a lack of an overall girls' juvenile justice plan and two, there is a need to develop and implement model programs such as multi-dimensional therapeutic foster care and restorative justice.
As to the lack of a general plan, H.B. 5294 provides for the development and implementation of a comprehensive girls' juvenile justice plan. There is a very real and urgent need to provide a unified approach to providing services to girls in the juvenile justice system.
While some services do exist for these girls, access to these services and the creation and implementation of new programs is hampered by the lack of the comprehensive plan that would combine the resources and input of both the Department of Children and Families and the Court Support Services Division.
The lack of such a plan results in a patchwork of services that are not always made available to the girls who would benefit tremendously from them. The plan created under raised H.B. 5294 would require DCF and CSSD to work together streamlining the processes of developing new programs and increasing access to existing services. While at the same time reducing the cost of administration and recidivism.
The need for a unified approach is clear. The number of girls involved in the system is increasing while the fundamental needs of girls are not being adequately addressed. For example, a recent UConn social work study found that over a five year period of time, the rate of court involved boys in Connecticut decreased by 4% while the number of girls increased by 18%.
The other way in which raised H.B. 5294 improves upon the current system is through the inclusion of effective model programs such as multi-dimensional therapeutic foster care and restorative justice. These programs have been shown to reduce recidivism and facilitate the transition of girls from long term placements back into the community. These programs are not currently offered by either DCF or CSSD.
The Center for Children's Advocacy agrees with the National Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention that the most effective means of addressing the needs of girls in the juvenile justice system is to provide a wide range of services under a plan that allows for the flexibility to adopt research proven programs.
The greater the range of services available, the more likely the system is to be able to respond to the individual needs of the girl in the system and the more responsive the system, the greater the likelihood of the successful transition out of the juvenile justice system.
One more point. The Center disagrees with the proposal to create either a new secure facility or additional secure residential beds at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School. We feel the population served by such placement is relatively small and the resources would be better spent on increasing clinical staff and security measures at Connecticut's Children's Place.
On behalf of the Center for Children's Advocacy, thank you for your consideration of this bill.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Are there questions? Representative Green.
REP. GREEN: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Do you have any information on the number of women who are incarcerated in the adult system that may have been involved in the juvenile justice system when they were younger?
BRETTE LOGAN: I do not have that information. I can make it available to you.
REP. GREEN: Okay, thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: If there are no other questions, thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: (INAUDIBLE-NOT SPEAKING INTO A MICROPHONE)
REP. LAWLOR: Sure.
ALICE FARRELL: Good afternoon. My name is Alice Farrell and I'm an employee of Catholic Family Services. I'm also the co-chair of the Hartford/West Hartford System of Care and I'd like to take a minute first to say I believe we have one justice system, one juvenile justice system and I would like to say at point so that there is no question mark behind it. And the reason I say this is because of the history and background that we have.
We have worked at Catholic Family Services with traditionally the marginal and the economically disadvantaged individuals across an array of services including children services, adult services, and senior services.
One particular program that we have at Catholic Family Services is the Hartford Street Program and it's a comprehensive youth department that covers both the case management services for at risk children in school as well as in the community. In addition, we provide the juvenile justice intermediate evaluation program, which is a court mandated evaluation. It's a multi-disciplinary evaluation provided to children referred by the court and in addition to that we have the intensive case management monetary and tracking program, the Choice Program.
The background of working with youth who are at risk and who are either on parole, probation, in detention, we can safely say and support the bill that focuses on the over-representation of minorities in the juvenile justice system.
In addition, with the Hartford/West Hartford System of Care, we have had an opportunity to co-chair the Community Outreach Committee as well as focusing on the juvenile justice matters through a (inaudible) Foundation Grant.
And in this particular area, we have identified some key issues. We have come together as a community, including providers, families, parents, state agency representatives have been meeting on a weekly basis to look at issues relating to juvenile justice. They have looked at the number of children that are referred in, the number of kids that are coming out, the children who are in need of services pertaining to culturally and linguistically appropriate services. The need to have appropriate early intervention, a key criteria and a focus of evidence-based programming for families to access.
As part of that, I personally had the opportunity to sit with some families and to hear their testimonies we asked them to tell us and to share with us their experiences with the juvenile justice system and to hear their pain, to feel their passion, and the confusion that sometimes they have around the services that they are in need of, but are not able to find, and what's happening to their kids when they're in the system.
When you sit and hear it, when you sit and feel the pain that they're sharing, it makes you wonder and you question what is it if it's one system or not. Sometimes it's unfortunate that the joke of it being one system for minority kids and one system for non-minority. The system for the juvenile piece and incarceration is for minorities while treatment is for the non-minority kids.
And that's not a good feeling to hear, but when they express their feelings, it's painful to listen to.
I'd like to say just another piece here. To have an opportunity to take a look at the number, the type of screening tools that are being used, the appropriateness of the referral, to have a systematic way of looking to make sure that the penalty, if you will, or the direction that a child goes into is appropriate just as if it was the same penalties being dispatched or given out to a non-minority individual.
That is where one of the elements that we want to look at and we're looking at it as we're sitting to look at a juvenile review board for the Hartford area. This topic of over-representation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system just keeps surfacing and surfacing and surfacing. And we'd like to be able to give support or give information as needed regarding this issue to help us move in a way where it's not a question mark at the end of where there is one system or not.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Are there questions? Representative Green.
REP. GREEN: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Can you tell me the age group that you're working with?
ALICE FARRELL: Okay. For the Juvenile Review Board we're looking at age eight to fifteen and we look at -- there's a number of pieces from across Catholic Family Services we have zero up to eighteen and up to twenty-one if they're still connected to their local system.
REP. GREEN: For the young people that you work with, where do you get our referrals from? You talked about a choice program. You talked about assessment. Where do you get your referrals from?
ALICE FARRELL: The referrals come across the board. We get referrals from Probation. We get referrals from the Department of Children and Families. We get referrals from the school system, parent support organizations and families themselves are referred in. So it cuts across.
REP. GREEN: I'm trying to get a sense of -- my thought is that those children who need supportive services, assessments are usually involved in a number of agencies or departments. For example, a child that's working with DCF and under DCF's care may have a probation officer and get arrested. And so I find that you have a number of parties that are sort of working with the child.
Do you find that in the children that you work with that they may have DCF involvement, probation, or are they, in a sense, separated where they're not involved with DCF, but maybe have a probation officer or they have some school related issues, but not on probation or do you find that most of them actually do have a number of agencies involved with them?
ALICE FARRELL: We have a combination and many of them have, particularly with the Choice Program and with the JJIE -- the Juvenile Justice Intermediary Evaluation does have the CSSD, the DCF involvement. We do have others who are not connected with those particular systems, but definitely have involvement with the school system, particularly psychological department, the school of social work, school social worker, department, in addition to just some non-traditional service providers being involved with some of these families and trying to access the service for them.
REP. GREEN: Okay. If I was to ask you -- well, I'll ask you. Out of the number of kids that you work with, what percentage would you say are involved in having more than one agency in their life? Or involved in their family?
ALICE FARRELL: I would say a significant number, percentage, particularly if you bring in the school system.
REP. GREEN: Now, let me ask you one other question. Do you find that, for example, the DCF, the CSSD and maybe for a kid to stay in school having involvement with the social worker? Do you find that there's some coordination or sharing of information with those agencies for the benefit of that child? Are they all working together?
ALICE FARRELL: That's an excellent question and I think it begs for some clarification for me to put out there. One of the programs that we have, the Kid Coordination Program, specifically focused on the coordination and integration of services for the children and families because historically, if you will, many of them have been disconnected and have not been integrated or they have some elements in place, others are not. Some systems are not necessarily linked or speaking to each other in way that would facilitate easy access to services or to move a process quickly.
With the Kid Coordination Program, that is where we've seen a need to kind of galvanize and to help systems recognize, with the understanding around confidentiality, etcetera, that there's a need to be very aggressive and timely in sharing of the information, particularly because we have systems that have intake setups, so to speak, so that a set of information is gathered here. The parents have to share the same information in another system and in another system, etcetera.
More integration or a mechanism to allow for the parent to share their story one time. It would be really helpful and that is something that we've heard from parents. Coordination is key and I think some systems have, if not barriers, challenges around their own policies and procedures that need to be looked at.
REP. GREEN: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Other questions? If not, thanks very much.
ALICE FARRELL: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Next is Bernetta Henry.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: (INAUDIBLE-NOT SPEAKING INTO A MICROPHONE)
REP. LAWLOR: Okay, sure.
KATHLEEN CARRIER: Thank you. My name is Kathleen Carrier and I'm here to give testimony in support of raised H.B. 5297, AN ACT CONCERNING THE NEEDS OF JUVENILE STATUS OFFENDERS AND STATUS OFFENDER VIOLATORS.
I am a parent working with the Southeast Mental Health System of Care, that's KidCare and our team has worked with the juvenile system, informally, to help access appropriate mental health services for children and families, for families and children with high risk behaviors.
We have noticed an increasing number of families are turning to the juvenile court system in an effort to maintain some control over their children's high risk behaviors. These parents are very interested and invested in their children.
Many of the children that come to us come to us undiagnosed. We've worked with children that were so depressed that they are unable to get out of bed and go to school. We serve children with broken spirits. They are frustrated and many times verbally and physically abusive. They don't fit in. Friends are few. Many lack socialization skills. Yes, they need to be held accountable for their actions and choices, but we need to give them the tools to enable them to make better choices, to help heal those broken spirits.
Certainly, incarceration for these children is not a solution. I know that receiving the right services can net future positive results. We can make a difference. We can help develop a workforce of healthy adults who will be contributors to our system. These are our future voters, our future taxpayers.
I believe a good beginning would be to support raised H.B. 5297. My only concern with this bill is in Section One which is the new section. And it states "such screening and assessment shall be conducted only with the consent of the child and the child's attorney." This statement, to me anyways, and I'm certainly not a lawyer, but to me it implies that anyone filing a Family With Service Needs petition will have to incur the expense of the attorney, which may result in many families not accessing the system. If there's some way that we can amend this statement for families not to incur these additional expenses, certainly would be helpful to our families.
Thank you. I don't know if anyone has any questions.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Are there questions? Representative Green.
REP. GREEN: Thank you. I saw that a couple of statements in the bill that talked about the screening. I guess I was also a little concerned about the screening having to have the consent of the child and the child's attorney.
If you make a Family with Service Needs referral, it may appear to me that the child maybe uncooperative and if the child needs support and you have to assess and screen and the child says no, what are we to do?
KATHLEEN CARRIER: I think under the present system I believe that that is happening at the present moment and still the children are being screened and assessed if the probation officer feels as though there is a need.
So I don't think it's going to change anything. I think that we still get the information if that's what you're asking me. If you're asking me will the child cooperate with the services once the assessment is done.
REP. GREEN: Well, I'm not sure under this language if we can do the assessment if the child says they don't want it to be done.
KATHLEEN CARRIER: Right. It's saying that with the consent of the child and the child's attorney. I think that we need to eliminate that phrase within this.
REP. GREEN: Okay. And you're not sure right now if a Family with Service Needs petition was made now and the courts decided to do an assessment, the child, in a sense, could not refuse? Currently, I don't think they can refuse.
KATHLEEN CARRIER: No, they say that they're going to, but they do cooperate is what I've seen.
REP. GREEN: Okay. When you think about and I'm just trying to get a sense because some people think that sixteen or seventeen year olds should be included in this definition of "juvenile". What's your thought on sixteen and seventeen year olds because that's another area that I feel a lot of parents are having difficulty with their children and are also not able to turn anywhere and say my child needs help. Do you know what parents of those children -- that those aged children do when they have the same kinds of needs?
KATHLEEN CARRIER: Right now we don't have any authority over the sixteen and seventeen year olds. Many families -- especially if you're talking about a high risk population by history of not making good choices, it really puts a family under a lot of stress because there is no avenue, there is no place for these families to turn to so that they can help get the child their needs assessed and the services given to the children at this present time. I think it's a big gap, the sixteen and seventeen year olds. I think it's something that we really do need to be concerned with.
REP. GREEN: Thank you.
KATHLEEN CARRIER: You're welcome.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Are there other questions? If not, thank you very much.
Next is Joyce Hamilton. Is Joyce here? How about Beresford Wilson. Mr. Wilson. And Mr. Wilson will be followed by -- is Pat Monahan here? Pat. Okay, you'll be next.
BERESFORD WILSON: Good evening, gentlemen and ladies. I'm Beresford Wilson. I'm a advocate and member of an organization called AFCAMP. It's African Caribbean American Parents of Children with Disabilities. I believe I have been before this committee before on numerous occasions concerning similar bills and similar concerns.
As an organization that advocates for children and families, we believe that it is crucial to focus on prevention, early intervention and treatment to more effectively prevent recidivism and develop more productive citizens and to provide less expensive alternatives to incarceration and detention.
The following bills serve to promote these goals. We strongly endorse raised H.B. 5297, AN ACT CONCERNING NEEDS OF JUVENILE OFFENDERS AND STATUS OFFENDER VIOLATORS, which would improve behavioral health treatment for Families with Service Needs and Youth in Crisis.
Children in the State of Connecticut save money by decreased recidivism in the number of youth involved in the juvenile justice system.
H.B. 5292, AN ACT CONCERNING REDUCTION OF DISPORPORTIONATE MINORITY REPRESENTATION IN THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM would address the disproportionate confinement of minority youth through the application of state-of-the-art methods accessing special needs minority communities and through the development of community-based services to reach those families whose needs have not been met by traditional social service practice.
H.B. 5294, AN ACT CONCERNING JUVENILE JUSTICE PLAN FOR GIRLS addresses significant service gaps and discrepancies in the continuum of care for girls in the juvenile justice system. Between the need for intensive crisis intervention, assessment and treatment in the system's current ability to meet these demands.
Like I said before, I've been here addressing these concerns and trying to represent some of the members of my community, some of the families that I've advocated for. Without this type of legislation and these types of concerns addressed, I will continually hear and see kids in my community grown up to be young men who stand on the corner and talk about how they had so much fun in the Department of Correction and in jails.
I think that's a real problem. Rather than hearing kids having so much fun they had with educational goals and vocational goals or aspirations, I hear continuously again friends of mine and kids I see grow up in my community in West Hartford talk about how much fun they had in jail, you know, not about how hard of a time they had making it through school, or giving advice to each other telling how they can access services that some of these bills talk about.
We don't have to go over the reasons why there is a disproportionate number of minorities involved in the juvenile justice system because I think we all know those reasons, but the answers and the resolutions to those problems, all of us working together. I'm also a member of Hartford's and West Hartford's Systems of Care. And been involved with different initiatives created by DCF.
And AFCAMP has been in existence for about the last five years. Some of it gets real old for me. Sitting at the table, seeing the same faces, preaching to the same choir and having the same questions asked of me. I think this is nothing new that you hear me say and if you ask me any questions, you'll probably hear me repeat the same answers that I've repeated for the last five years.
We really need to support these bills. There's some language in these bills that are getting some reservations and I am concerned about. But to push them forward, to start to push them forward and holding back just for a small languages that can be amended and that can be changed and may not even come to existence through the lack of proper funding.
These bills definitely need to go through and definitely need to be supported and funded properly. And I need to stop hearing kids in my neighborhood talk about how much fun they had in juvenile detention or how much anticipated fun they're going to have in some of the adult facilities.
Thank you very much. If you have any questions.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, sir. Are there questions? If not, thanks very much.
BERESFORD WILSON: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Next is Pat Monahan. And Pat will be followed by Russell Dagenais and Ginger Katz and Larry Katz, then Charlie Spinasi.
PAT MONAHAN: Good afternoon, Representative Lawlor, Senator Kissel, Representative McMahon, and Representative Green.
My name is Pat Monahan. I'm Vice President and General Counsel of the Connecticut Hospital Association and I appreciate the opportunity to testify on behalf of CHA and its members on H.B. 5043. And in particular, to support Section Six which would implement a limit on non-economic damage awards in medical liability cases against health care providers.
We appreciate the substantial work and thought that legislators have devoted to the issues raised by escalating professional liability premiums and while some of the measures that are being raised in other bills would likely improve the State's medical malpractice litigation process and oversight capabilities, they do not adequately address the crisis confronting the State.
Connecticut hospitals continue to believe that our liability system requires a measure or a combination of measures that introduces predictability and stability and that a reasonable limit on non-economic damages in one form or another must be part of the solution if we are to achieve real reform.
The question before this Legislature is truly, in our view, one of preserving this State's ability to deliver appropriate health care to the general public. The basis for our concern is the threat that the people in this state will lose access to critical medical care and the frightening reality that it may already be occurring.
Preserving access to care is not just a lofty concept. It is critical to preserving health and indeed, life. The President and CEO of Windham Community Memorial Hospital testified a week and one-half ago before the Program Review and Investigations Committee that the hospital, which serves eighteen area towns, is served by a single obstetric and gynecology practice consisting of five physicians and two midwives. He explained how that group was unable to secure liability insurance late last year for 2004 without intervention from area legislators, including Representative Merrill and a Department of Insurance Cease and Desist Order directed to the insurer.
Doctor James Watson, a member of that OB group then testified, giving a vivid description of the difference between preserving access to care and allowing it to slip away.
He testified before the committee as follows. These are his words. "On January 1, 2004, the day our malpractice insurance was due to expire, a woman in active labor came to our emergency room with a breach presentation with the baby's leg protruding through the vagina. This is an obstetrical emergency with a risk of prolapsed umbilical cord. A C-Section must be done immediately. The nearest hospital outside of Willimantic is thirty minutes away. Thanks to Representative Merrill's office and the Insurance Commissioner, we were there and performed a C-Section saving the infant's life."
That, I suggest to you is the difference between access and no access. We know that you have given serious thought to and struggled with these issues. But we ask you to take yet another hard look at every measure, including some limit on non-economic damages before you let that opportunity slip away.
CHA and its members appreciate the work you are doing and we remain committed to working with you and other legislators to achieve reform.
Thank you and I'd be happy to address any questions if you have them.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Are there questions? If not, thanks very much.
PAT MONAHAN: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Next is Russell Dagenais. Is that right?
RUSSELL DAGENAIS: Good afternoon. I am Russell Dagenais. I am one of the current owners of Taylor Rental in Wallingford. My family and I have owned and operated the business for over twenty-seven years.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to address a major issue with you. I support H.B. 5217, AN ACT CONCERNING CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO RETURN RENTED PERSONAL PROPERTY.
I would like to bring your attention to this issue as it effects my own business opportunities, as well as those of other rental owners in Connecticut.
I am speaking not only my behalf, but also on behalf of other rental stores in Connecticut who could not be here today because of a National Rental Association Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.
The following is an illustration of theft of service effects me. A customer rents an item from my store on day one. At this time, they pay a rental charge equal to one day rental. Example, $40 and a deposit of $50. The customer takes the item and keeps the item for three days or maybe four weeks. The customer then returns the item with no money or check to pay for the additional rental charges. If they have a credit card, a charge is made to the account for the additional fee if they have enough credit available. Frequently, the authorizations are denied or this customer may not have a variety (inaudible) with a credit card.
At this point, the customer either walks out of our store without paying or signs a contract promising to pay. Often times, we never see the additional rental charges even if they sign a promise to pay.
Phone calls and letters to the customer fail to solicit payment. The police department will not take action stating "This is a civil matter and must be dealt with in Small Claims Court." This route, if taken, is costly, time consuming and often unfruitful. Even if we have been awarded a favorable judgment, our losses are greater than prior to filing the lawsuit.
The current interpretation of theft of service law does not support rental store owners. Our inability to enlist assistance from local police departments to collect extended rental fees sends a message to criminals that we cannot do anything to stop such theft. This is a significant and growing problem within our rental industry.
How much are our losses? In Connecticut, there are approximately 178 rental businesses. Seventy-seven of those are members of the Connecticut Association of Rental Dealers. Per our research, which includes information gathered from 30% of the current card members, yearly losses for theft of service figures total $123,847 for the year 2002 alone. Based on an average loss of $8,256 per store in Connecticut, this figure would increase to $1,469,658 for the 178 rental stores in Connecticut. The actual number could be much higher. Economically, theft of services losses place an extreme burden on rental store owners' bottom line. It impacts expansion, purchasing, and investment.
I would like to ask for your support on this issue as it effects not only me, personally, but other rental store owners in our State. Theft of service effects stores of any size and hinders our chances of making ends meet.
Thank you for your consideration of this issue and support of fair business practices in Connecticut.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Mr. Dagenais. Just a question. Don't you like get a credit card from people when they rent stuff from you?
RUSSELL DAGENAIS: Like if we -- not everyone has credit cards, but if we do get a credit card, most times when they come back, two, three, four days or weeks later before they finally return it, their credit card is no longer -- no more credit is available on the credit card.
REP. LAWLOR: I see.
RUSSELL DAGENAIS: And we have no way of knowing how long they're going to keep it when they originally take it. They say one day. We charge them out for one day. A lot of times we don't get it back for weeks, three or four weeks at a time.
REP. LAWLOR: But if you got a credit card and assuming there's still credit left, you can bill for all the time they had the item, right?
RUSSELL DAGENAIS: If they give us a credit card, then we go for an authorization. If they give us a credit card when they first took it, went to other stores along the way, used up all their credit, when we go to close out the ticket, there's nothing left. So we're stuck.
REP. LAWLOR: I see. So do you do like an interim, like a week at a time, if it's missing, just to get your charges as they accrue, sort of?
RUSSELL DAGENAIS: Well, we need an authorization from the customer and if we make phone calls, sometimes they don't return our phone calls. If we --
REP. LAWLOR: But I mean -- I know if you go to a hotel or something like that or you rent a car, you get a bunch of authorizations in case you smash up the car, that type of thing. You're responsible for it. Do you do that?
RUSSELL DAGENAIS: No, we don't. The way I understand with the credit cards is you have to have the customer's signature or authorization to --
REP. LAWLOR: It's like when I rent the car, you sign one to rent the car and you sign a separate one in case you smash up the car, they're going to bill it to your credit card.
RUSSELL DAGENAIS: No, we don't do that.
REP. LAWLOR: Of course, I don't use my credit card. (Laughter) But you could do that. Is there any reason you don't do that in case people don't bring the stuff back?
RUSSELL DAGENAIS: The majority of our customers don't have credit cards. They give us cash and there's a larger percentage that do have credit cards, but not all.
REP. LAWLOR: What kind of stuff do people rent if they don't have a credit card?
RUSSELL DAGENAIS: A whole array of things, carpet cleaning machines, lawn and garden equipment, tillers, thatchers, anything to do around your house. There's companies out there that do work for other people and they come in and get equipment to do the work for other people. Service industries.
REP. LAWLOR: They don't have credit cards?
RUSSELL DAGENAIS: No, not --
REP. LAWLOR: Those that are doing business don't have credit cards?
RUSSELL DAGENAIS: You'd be surprised. And to make it a blanket that you would have to take a credit card, when you do take the credit card in the beginning, when the time comes ---
(Tape switched from side 3B to side 4A - the entire remainder of the public hearing was not recorded - tape 4 has no recorded testimony)
(Whereupon, the public hearing was adjourned.)