On June 28, Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that he has signed into law legislation he introduced and developed with a number of lawmakers and advocates that will create a major reform to the state’s methods of detention for people who have only been charged with a crime in order to continue efforts reducing the state’s historically low crime rates and provide solutions to challenges that discriminate against the poor.
The legislation is Public Act 17-145, An Act Concerning Pretrial Justice Reform. It was adopted in both chambers of the General Assembly with broad, bipartisan support.
The reforms, which took effect beginning Saturday, July 1, target adults accused of committing misdemeanors who are unable to afford money bail and languish in jail for weeks or months. In turn, this situation often creates deteriorating conditions in which those being held are unable to earn a paycheck to support themselves and their families, intensifying their economic instability and potentially increasing their inability to lead productive, healthy lives within the community.
“The system of pretrial justice that we have been operating under for many decades has resulted in many unintended consequences that often have adverse effects on public safety,” Governor Malloy said. “The effect of a few days of detention for people who have been accused of misdemeanors and not released simply because they do not have the ability to pay can be devastating and far reaching – possibly leading to the loss of employment and housing, which only exacerbates the kind of instability that can lead to a life of crime. If we want to continue the progress we’ve made in lowering crime, reducing recidivism, and making our communities safer, then we must focus on what happens at the front-end of the justice system.”
Developed based on input from the Connecticut Sentencing Commission, the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, the Yankee Institute of Connecticut and a number of lawmakers, the legislation:
- Ends the practice of “cash only” bail, where defendants are prohibited from using a surety to post bail;
- Prohibits judges from setting money bail for misdemeanor charges unless they make a finding that the defendant is charged with a family violence crime, is likely to fail to appear in court, is likely to obstruct justice, or otherwise presents a danger to the community;
- Reduces the time between a first and second court appearance for misdemeanor charges from 30 to 14 days for persons who are being held in jail pretrial; and
- Establishes a study of the feasibility of establishing a state bail fund for indigent defendants, with a report due on January 1, 2018.
Governor Malloy noted that reforms of these kinds have been supported by leaders on both sides of the aisle – Republicans and Democrats – in both blue and red states all across our country because of the positive results they produce.
The Governor added, “I would like to also thank the Judicial Branch for promptly issuing guidelines to judges and undertaking a special training at the Judges of the Superior Court Annual Meeting last week.”
Today, in Connecticut, there are 3,343 people being held in jail because they cannot post bond – accounting for 23 percent of the entire prison population. The state spends approximately $168 per day to keep a person behind bars. With the implementation of these reforms, it is expected that the state will save approximately $31.3 million over the upcoming biennium. It is estimated that the new law will reduce the pretrial population by 330 inmates – approximately 10 percent of the total pretrial population. These changes – in conjunction with other recently implemented reforms – are anticipated to result in the closure of an additional correctional facility later this year. The Governor, Republican legislative leaders and Democratic legislative leaders, all incorporated the savings that are produced from these reforms into each of their respective budget proposals for this year.