REPORT ON BILLS FAVORABLY REPORTED BY COMMITTEE

COMMITTEE:

Judiciary Committee

File No.:

Bill No.:

HB-6976

PH Date:

3/30/2005

Action/Date:

JF 04/15/2005

Reference Change:

 

TITLE OF BILL:

AN ACT CONCERNING CRIMINAL JUSTICE PLANNING.

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Betty Gallo

 

REASONS FOR BILL:

There is an interest in studying and providing oversight of the entire criminal justice system to ultimately divert many criminal offenders to community-based alternatives to incarceration and decrease high recidivism rates.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

James Papillo, Victim Advocate – Strongly supports the effort to evaluate, analyze, assess and eventually coordinate and improve the criminal justice process. The vast information that will become available through the efforts of this division will likely have a significant, positive impact as we evaluate and assess the current state of the criminal justice system. He requests that the committee consider amending Section 6 to include the Victim Advocate or his/her designee as a member of this important commission.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Nora Duncan, Connecticut Association of Nonprofits – My organization feels it important to note that there may be a need for the bill to be more specific in its requirements and to spell out the need to explore the factors of poverty and racial and ethnic disparity. It is critical that the work of the Council of State Governments not be lost and time not be wasted duplicating what has already been done. We applaud section 1(b)(13) because we believe in prioritizing community-based resources in the cities and neighborhoods in Connecticut that produce the largest number of arrests and prisoners.

We also applaud section 6 but request that the Committee consider appointments of persons working in the system of community-based programming for offenders, as this is where the truest base of knowledge resides.

Sally Schenk, Board President, Family Reentry – We want to reinforce the sense of urgency and moral imperative that the sheer scale of the issue demands. To have incarceration rates that are 7 times higher per capita than 50 years of our own historical norms prior to 1975 must create in us all a sense of alarm and disbelief. We cannot simply frame the problem as fixing the internals of the criminal justice system. We ask the committee to also consider these questions in this bill: (1) What is an appropriate rate of incarceration for this country? (2) Why are the arrest rates for drug-related charges so much higher for people of color than white people when substance abuse rates are similar? (3) Are our sentencing policies truly fair?

Sally Joughlin, People Against Injustice, New Haven – While I am in favor of Criminal Justice Planning and Prisoner Reentry commissions, I question whether officials of the Department of Correction (DOC) can either evaluate the system or successfully contribute to a reentry process that reduces recidivism without also changing what goes on inside. The proposed Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division is charged with conducting an in-depth analysis of the criminal justice system. Will health care neglect, abuse by guards, retribution for complaints, poor food, the effects of isolation and other conditions be part of the analysis? Jail reinterview and diversion is good, but will they also examine the bail system, which causes pretrial detainees who are not a flight risk and who have not been convicted of anything to be sent to prison simply because they couldn’t afford their high bonds? Will the expansion of the Board of Pardons and Parole improve the situation where those who have made parole have to wait months for release?

Finally, I ask, what will happen if and when the overcrowding is eliminated and Connecticut’s prisons contain the number of prisoners who fit the intended capacity of the facilities? There are currently about 18,760 prisoners. I don’t know what number would constitute an “un-crowded” situation. Some of those who might lose their jobs or supply contracts if diversion starts really taking place might not want to go beyond the elimination of overcrowding. What will be the goal of the Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Commission?

Gene Tewksbury, Correction Officer, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) - We would ask that the Commission on Prison and Jail Overcrowding include a member from Corrections Union to ensure full diversity.

Vanessa Burns, Executive Director, African-American Affairs Commission – For this Commission it is a matter of grave concern that African-Americans are overrepresented in Connecticut’s criminal justice system. Between 1985 and 2000, Connecticut’s prison population tripled from 5,375 inmates to 17,305. In the same period, the DOC spent $1 billion to add more than 10,000 prison beds, but couldn’t keep up with the influx of prisoners.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Nothing submitted.

 

Reported by:

Date:

 

Amanda Abbey

04/25/2005