JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING A SECOND CHANCE SOCIETY.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
REASONS FOR BILL:
To expand access to the juvenile justice system for offenders up to age 21, to reform the cash bail system in Connecticut and to implement the Governor's budget recommendations.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Gov. Malloy's General Counsel, Karen Buffkin, on Behalf of the Governor: Gov. Malloy offers his wholehearted support for this bill, which will ensure that young offenders receive a chance at rehabilitation instead of “an adult punishment that is very often the first step on a path toward a lifetime of crime and incarceration.” The Governor notes that the same stakeholders who oversaw the implementation of the first “Raise the Age” effort will be involved in this one. He states that there has been a 54% reduction in the number of incarcerated 18-21 year-olds in adult prisons since the first “Raise the Age” bill took effect, and that this is “almost certainly” a result of that reform's effect on keeping young offenders off the path to recidivism. He supports expanding our youthful offender statutes to 18-20 year-olds, as he feels this will protect young offenders from the lifetime stigmas of a criminal conviction while still preserving the existing discretions available to judges dealing with youthful offenders on a case-by-case basis. He finally endorses “two minor provisions for pretrial justice reform”: eliminating money bail for defendants charged solely with misdemeanors, and giving defendants the option of posting a 10% cash bail directly with the court. Eliminating bail for misdemeanants will free up jail space and end the inequalities that leave indigent defendants in jail for minor offenses. The 10% cash bail will maintain a real financial incentive for offenders to appear, and will still allow the court to pursue the full bail amount from those who fail to appear. The legislation preserves the option for defendants to use bail bondsmen instead of posting directly with the court, if they so choose.
Chief State's Attorney Kevin T. Kane: The State's Attorney expressed serious reservations about certain provisions of the bill. He notes that federal law prohibits incarcerating inmates under age 18 with those over 18, meaning separate housing will be required for persons aged 18-20. The administrative burden of the courts will be increased by shifting so many cases from the criminal docket to the juvenile docket. He also expressed his opposition to charging offenders between 18-20 as juveniles when the crimes committed are especially serious, such as first-degree robbery and manslaughter.
Department of Children and Families: DCF supports the bill, and notes that the last “Raise the Age” bill in Connecticut—fully implemented in 2012—was accomplished at a far lower cost than initially projected, and has coincided with a significant drop in youth involved in the juvenile justice system and lower overall crime rates, as well as a 71% decline in the population of the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS) since 2013.
Division of Criminal Justice: DCJ opposes the bill because it would allow younger offenders to “avoid meaningful consequences holding them accountable to the community for serious and violent criminal offenses.” They cite the potential of defendants charged with manslaughter in the first degree, robbery in the first degree, burglary in the first degree, kidnapping in the second degree, sexual assault in the second degree, and importing child pornography in the first degree, to be treated as juvenile offenders in the juvenile justice system. DCJ examined Connecticut's current inmate population, and found hundreds of offenders who committed their crimes between ages 18-20 who would have faced reduced penalties if this bill were law. They also note that, with the planned closing of the CJTS, there will no longer be a secure facility for confining violent 18-20 year-olds, as juvenile courts are empowered only to confine defendants to DCF facilities, not Department of Corrections-operated ones. DCJ notes that crime rates are higher among 18-20 year-olds than among 16-18 year-olds, so the low fiscal impact of the earlier “Raise the Age” bill is not likely to be repeated with this one. DCJ respectfully requests that language be added to permit discretionary transfers of certain serious cases back to the criminal courts, and that increased sanctions are made available for “those who are deemed adults responsible for making their own decisions in so many other important aspects of their lives.” DCJ also requests that no action be taken on the provisions of the bill concerning bail for misdemeanor defendants, stating that the Connecticut Sentencing Commission is reviewing this issue at the governor's request, and acting before that study is completed would be premature. They also note that, as drafted, the bill would prevent judges from imposing bail even in instances where the defendant informs the court of his intention to flee the jurisdiction, or when the defendant has numerous prior failures to appear.
Chief Public Defender Susan O. Storey: The Office of the Chief Public Defender supports SB 18. They especially endorse raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction, and the switch from using the term “convicted” to the term “adjudicated.” They are supportive of Section 1 of the bill, which adjusts the definition of “youth” and adds the classification of “young adult” to the criminal statutes, but suggest a future change of raising the minimum age for participating in the juvenile justice system (currently set by law at 7 years). In Section 2, they request that the term “youth” not be deleted from lines 214 and 216, since that part refers to the court's ability to issue orders directed at the parents of offenders, and the Office of the Chief Public Defender would like the courts to retain that ability for offenders under age 18. In Section 4, the Office of the Chief Public Defender asks that the legislature maintain the order that judges must find transferring a case to adult court from juvenile court is in both the “best interests of the child or young adult and the public,” because they consider it critically important that the young offender's interests are taken into account and are not simply ignored in favor of the public interest. They also ask that §46b-133(b) be amended to allow law enforcement to set bail for juvenile offenders between 18-21 years of age. In Section 5, they say that clarification is essential for determining where, if anywhere, juveniles may be detained following the closure of CJTS, and where female and transgender youth would be detained if so ordered. In Section 6, they ask that the factors espoused by the Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, and Miller v. Alabama be considered by any court prior to determining if it should designate a proceeding as a serious juvenile repeat offender prosecution. They also ask that language be inserted to require a finding that such a designation is both in the best interests of the offender and will serve public safety. In Section 16, due to budgetary constraints, they ask that the legislature remove language authorizing judges to appoint counsel for juvenile offenders “in the interest of justice” where no request for counsel has been made. In Section 17, they ask that all admissions, confessions or statements offered by any youth under age 18 be considered inadmissible unless a parent or guardian was present at the time of the questioning. In Section 20, they ask that language be inserted in subsections (j) and (k) to clarify the legislature's intentions regarding transgender juveniles who are committed to DCF. In Section 21, they ask for changes that will better preserve the rights of children or youths represented by counsel to have their counsel represent them at any hearings which might modify or enlarge their conditions of probation.
Senator Martin M. Looney: Sen. Looney testified in support of this bill, which he is proudly co-sponsoring, and which he feels is “another progressive proposal to improve our criminal justice system” and will “benefit the individual and the entire state.”
Office of the Child Advocate: OCA strongly supports SB 18. OCA notes that brains are not fully developed before age 25, and that deeper involvement with the criminal justice system actually correlates with an increased likelihood of reoffending, especially among youth who are transferred to adult courts and detention centers. OCA cites a 2015 report by the Executive Session on Community Corrections—a panel of national experts in criminal justice—that calls for states to raise the age of jurisdiction of juvenile justice programs to 21. OCA states that “The Second Chance Act is consistent with the leading science and recommendations from national experts in juvenile justice and adult criminal justice reform.”
State of Connecticut African-American Affairs Commission: The AAAC supports raising the juvenile justice system's age of jurisdiction, citing the fact that young African-Americans “have a higher likelihood of being arrested in schools than their white peers.” AAAC also supports the bail reform provisions of the bill, citing “racial biases that exist in the criminal justice system” and the presumption of innocence for defendants to show “that they should not be held in jail before being convicted of a crime solely based on the financial ability to post bail.”
State Victim Advocate Natasha M. Pierre, Esq.: Attorney Pierre opposes SB 18 for a number of reasons. She states that, as drafted, the bill denies crime victims their “State Constitutional right to receive information about the arrest, conviction, sentence, imprisonment and release of the accused and the right to be reasonably protected throughout the criminal justice process.” She states that juvenile crime victims' rights are infringed by the protections that are afforded juvenile offenders, and that the state does not have sufficient victim advocates in the juvenile justice system, with only three spread out among 12 juvenile courts. Finally, she notes that the juvenile system lacks a program to address sex offenders, and she strongly encourages the legislature to adopt one prior to transferring youthful offenders to the juvenile courts.
State of Connecticut Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission: LPRAC supports the bill, specifically the bail bond reforms, as those reforms “ensure that the state is not housing low-risk offenders after arrest simply because they cannot find the money for bail.” LPRAC notes that the existent, profit-driven bail system “has been found to discriminate against defendants who are low-income and cannot afford bail…For low-income families, many of whom are of Latino descent, having a family member in jail while awaiting trial can result in harmful socioeconomic consequences – further exacerbating a cycle of crime and poverty.”
Department of Children and Families: DCF supports the bill based on the new knowledge about adolescent brain development. They believe treating youthful offenders as delinquents instead of criminals will allow them “to become productive members of society without the stigma of an adult criminal record.” They also endorse the proposed phase-in implementation schedule for raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction as a reasonable step to facilitate implementation of the policy.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Connecticut Bar Foundation President James T. Shearlin: The Connecticut Bar Foundation supports Section 27 of the bill, which proposes that cash bail bonds posted by criminal defendants be deposited in interest-bearing accounts. Using the revenue from that interest and forfeited bonds to fund legal assistance for low-income civil litigants, as the bill proposes, would reduce the unmet needs of Connecticut's legal aid programs.
Connecticut Conference, United Church of Christ, Legislative Advocate Michele Mudrick: The Connecticut Conference of the UCC supports the bill on behalf of its 235 congregations and 67,500 congregants. Specifically, they support expanding Youthful Offender status to include 18, 19 and 20 year-olds; raising the age of the juvenile system's jurisdiction to include offenders up to age 20; and reforming cash bail to prohibit judges from imposing bail in misdemeanor cases unless the defendant poses an immediate threat to others.
American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, Legislative and Policy Director David McGuire: ACLU-CT supports the bill with the caveat that they want language added to expand access to observe court proceedings for cases involving offenders between 18-20 years old. Mr. McGuire highlighted in his testimony that limiting access to court proceedings could create “the specter of secret courts” and would leave SB 18 “susceptible to a constitutional challenge” under the First Amendment. Beyond that concern, however, the ACLU-CT strongly endorses the bill, especially the provision eliminating cash bail for misdemeanor defendants.
Connecticut Psychological Association: The Connecticut Psychological Association supports this bill because of the clear psychological and physiological differences between children and adults. They note that three major Supreme Court decisions in recent years have highlighted these differences, established through extensive research. Children are less able to control their impulses, less capable of considering alternative courses of action and avoiding risky behaviors, less able to envision the future and appreciate the long-term consequences of their actions, and more susceptible to outside influences. These tendencies continue through the development of the brain in a person's twenties. With so much changing in an offender's brain at this stage of development, the Association cautions that “there is simply no reliable way to determine that a juvenile's offenses are the result of an irredeemably corrupt character.”
Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence: CCADV supports the bill with reservations. CCADV notes that the bill could remove the applicability of protections for victims of “family violence crimes” as defined under CGS §46b-38a. Specifically, they are concerned that mandatory arrest (§46b-38b), next day arraignment (§54-1g(a)), nonfinancial conditions of release (§54-63c(b)), and family violence intervention units (§46b-38c) would no longer be available in cases where the alleged offender is between ages 18-20.
National Juvenile Justice Network: The NJJN endorses this bill and urges legislators to support it as a chance to “position Connecticut's system as a model of innovation and best practice, while positioning youth to have bright futures.” By changing the focus from punishing young offenders to reducing their likelihood of reoffending, NJJN feels this bill preserves accountability while also better addressing the root issues that can lead to recividism.
Yale College Democrats:
Michael Bogaty testified that studies show the human mind has not fully formed before one reaches their twenties, and that while youthful offenders should remain culpable for their crimes, those individuals still have the potential to develop into productive members of society. He notes that minor crimes committed by young offenders can affect their opportunities for employment and housing for decades into the future. He also notes that numerous studies have shown pervasive racial inequalities in the criminal justice system, including in charging and sentencing, and that this reform will help mitigate some of the damage caused by that inequality.
Alissa Wang testified that “the purpose of a justice system, above all, is to pursue a more just and peaceful society for all its members. That goal supersedes any other, including seeking revenge or inflicting punishment on individuals who commit crime.” She further stated that raising the jurisdictional age for juvenile courts would both “eliminate the ethical issues of undue punishment for young people” and “add to the state's graduation rate, economic productivity, and tax revenue.”
Michele Peng cites neuroscientific studies that show brain development isn't concluded in most people before age 25, and points to “safety nets” that exist for young people in education and other areas of life as a way to fairly recognize and account for this ongoing developmental process. Given the long-term harms faced by those in the criminal justice system, she urges the state to limit interactions youth may have with that system by adopting these reforms.
Yasmin Eriksson testified that, as an 18 year-old, she does not “know how to file taxes, balance a budget, or pay mortgage,” but that her choices at this stage of her life could still result in her being sent to an adult prison with no chance of her record being expunged. She urges legislators to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction, which would make Connecticut a national innovator and give youthful offenders the chance to earn a clean slate and become law-abiding, productive members of society.
Daniel Vernick testified that this bill will save a substantial amount of money by combatting over-incarceration, provide a step toward a more racially just society, and end the cycle of re-incarceration. He states that “Connecticut should be a place where a teenager who made a mistake is able to get another opportunity.”
Cavana Carey, a high school student from Hartford: Ms. Carey testified in favor of the bill, citing Connecticut's historically low prison population, and urging the General Assembly to continue “this positive trend by giving young adults the tools they need to rehabilitate and become productive members of society.” She said that “young men and women placed in adult prison are focused more on learning how to survive rather than on making progress in learning from the offenses that they've committed.” She added that young offenders may not have the degree of impulse control that they will develop later in life, and the law should recognize that their impulsiveness is a trait that can be lost with time, not something that requires “permanent punishment” in the form of lifelong consequences stemming from imprisonment.
Yale Undergraduate Prison Project, Co-Director of Advocacy & Awareness Patrick Sullivan: The Yale Undergraduate Prison Project urges support for the bill, calling SB 18 “essential to reforming the policies surrounding Connecticut's criminal justice system” and praising the fact that it “recognizes the outdated nature of the states [sic] policy with regards to scientific knowledge about juvenile behavior.”
Quinnipiac University School of Law, Jenny Flynn and Farah C. Hage-Sleiman: Supports the bill with some amendments. They request that the committee amend the bill to give judges the discretion to depart from a mandatory minimum sentence when sentencing a child who has been transferred to adult court, since this is not presently the case even if there are compelling mitigating circumstances. They say that mandatory minimums do not reduce crime; rather, the statutory schemes contribute to harm by disrupting families and communities. There is a national trend against mandatory minimums.
CT Community Nonprofit Alliance: The Alliance supports the bill as a means of continuing the state's decline in crime rates to a 45-year low. Given current budgetary constraints, however, they caution that sufficient funding must be allocated for nonprofit agencies involved in Second Chance Society 2.0 reforms.
Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association: CCDLA urges legislators to support the bill, which they say “reflects Connecticut's growing commitment to ensuring that our criminal justice policies are smart, productive and just. They fully endorse the testimony offered by the Office of the Chief Public Defender.
Connecticut Voices for Children, associate policy fellow Bianca Rey: Supports the bill because it would “effectively position Connecticut as a leader in the national movement to align juvenile justice with research-informed best practices.” CVC states that “research supports the conclusion that raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction should yield long-term savings and benefits by reducing the number of youth who commit crimes subsequent to their first conviction, and improving opportunities for these youth later on.”
Connecticut PTA: CT PTA supports the bill as part of its ongoing support for “family and community-based alternatives to incarceration of youth, especially for low level offenses.” CT PTA cites the 60% reduction in arrests for 17 year-olds following the expansion of the juvenile jurisdiction age in 2008 as evidence that this proposed expansion will similarly reduce arrests and criminal activity among 18-20 year-olds.
Gail Janensch, a resident of Bridgeport: Supports the bill as a positive step towards encouraging rehabilitation and education instead of imposing lifelong punishments for youthful mistakes.
Donald Ross, a resident of Lakeville, and Colleen Shaddox, a resident of East Haddam: Support the bill because it “would make Connecticut a leader in addressing young adult offending,” and also because it is in line with “a growing movement across the country to deal differently with people who break the law in their late teens and early twenties.” Though this bill is “visionary” in their opinion, it is also in line with current thinking among juvenile justice reformers around the country and the world.
Linda Hudson, a resident of Westport: Ms. Hudson urges support for the bill. As a Unitarian Universalist, she has a religious commitment “to fair and compassionate treatment for all,” and believes that “to handicap our youth with criminal records or unjust bail requirements is truly unfair.”
The American Conservative Union Foundation: The ACUF strongly agrees with raising the age of jurisdiction for juvenile courts. They cite research that offenders placed in the juvenile justice system are 34% less likely to reoffend than those sent to the adult system. They cite the principles that youths must be held accountable for their wrongful deeds, they must learn that their actions have consequences, and they must be placed into a system “that is predicated upon helping youngsters live better lives, taking advantage of the full realm of rehabilitative capabilities of our youth.” ACUF doubts those principles can be honored by incarcerating youth in prison. They believe that SB 18 “will help turn today's troubled youngsters into tomorrow's productive, taxpaying, law-abiding citizens.”
Connecticut Association for Human Services: CAHS supports the bill. They feel raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction would “mirror the biological development of the brain,” which does not fully govern behavioral and impulse control until the mid-to-late twenties. They would encourage the legislature to consider aligning the reforms of SB 18 with the Department of Transportation Apprenticeship Funding, which provides training and access to transportation jobs for under-represented and disadvantaged populations.
Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance: CJJA strongly supports the bill, as it believes “it would help older teenagers and young adults to transition into a productive adulthood much more than current justice system policy does. This success, in turn, would further improve public safety and save the state significant amounts of money.” CJJA “believes in holding young people accountable for misbehavior, in ways that are most likely to help them succeed and transition to productive adulthood,” and the changes proposed in this bill would continue Connecticut's progress in that direction.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
American Bail Coalition: The American Bail Coalition opposes the bail reform provisions of the bill, as the reforms require posting a 10% cash bail to the court instead of giving defendants the option of using a bail agent, who could provide them or a third party with a payment plan better suited to their financial situation. They oppose limiting judicial discretion to impose bail in misdemeanor cases. They report that they conducted an online poll of 100 Connecticut residents, of whom 95 opposed getting rid of bail for Class A misdemeanors, and none of whom cited bail reform as their most pressing concern regarding criminal justice.
Yankee Institute for Public Policy, Policy Director Suzanne Bates: Ms. Bates testified that the Yankee Institute does not support raising the age for prosecuting offenders as adults. She added that, while the Institute does “support reforming the pre-trial system in our state,” they do not support the revisions to the bail system included in this bill. The Institute endorses a move to a risk-assessment model for bail reform, rather than a blanket removal of bail for misdemeanor defendants. Ms. Bates suggests examining the system now in place in New Jersey, which relies on a risk assessment screening that is applied to each defendant to determine the best form of pre-trial monitoring in their case. She stresses, however, that it is not in the state's best interest to pay $120 per day to incarcerate nonviolent, low-risk defendants before trial.
Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence: The Alliance opposes SB 18 because they feel “it would be a step backwards for the victims and survivors whose rights would be limited in juvenile courts.” They ask that the bill be modified to remove individuals who commit sexual assault crimes “until we have the victim services and specialized age-appropriate collaborative supervision and treatment units in place to appropriately respond to these cases.” They also ask that a victim advocate be appointed as a member of the Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee.
Bail Association of Connecticut President Andrew Marocchini: Opposes this bill based on “the potential unintended consequences it may have on our state's public safety, the ability to ensure that an arrested person will be released on reasonable terms, and the devastating impact it will have on our industry and the 1,000 people we employ.” He attached suggestions for substitute language, including a provision that would modify the new bail proposals to allow courts discretion where the defendant is accused of committing a crime of violence.
American Surety Company Executive Vice President Michael J. Whitlock: American Surety Company (doing business in Connecticut since 1999) opposes the provision allowing defendants to post a 10% bail with the courts, claiming that this amount is insufficient to guarantee appearance at trial, and therefore violates Section 14 of the Connecticut Constitution, which states in relevant part that “All prisoners shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties…”
Mary Anne Casey, a bail bondsman from Hartford: Opposes the bill both as a bondsman and a crime victim. She states that the releasing authority should be able to take into account the defendant's history, past failures to appear, and ties to the community.
Daniel Toner, a bail bondsman operating in Hartford and New Britain: Opposes the bill because it substitutes a 10% cash bail for a surety bail of 7%, which allows for payment plans and shared financial risk. He notes that with a surety bail, there is an incentive for someone – the bond agent – to find and retrieve the defendant should he or she abscond, but that there is no incentive to track an absconded defendant under a cash bail system. He urges the legislature to hold off on any major reforms to the bail system until after the Sentencing Commission has had a chance to submit its recommendations in 2017.
Reported by: Jerald Lentini