Governor M. Jodi Rell today announced a series of sweeping proposals to transform and improve the state's criminal justice system including wide-ranging changes to the penal code, the Board of Pardons and Parole, victim services and the information systems used by criminal justice agencies - all proposed for consideration during a January special legislative session and all intended to strengthen current laws and to reform the existing system.
In addition to the special session proposals, the Governor announced that she will make additional recommendations for the regular session of the General Assembly that begins on February 6th. Those proposals carry a cost and will be considered during the regular session when a budget is proposed, debated and enacted.
"Keeping our people and our communities safe is the most important job of government," Governor Rell said. "The proposals I am announcing today will improve every aspect of the criminal justice system. They will transform the system and provide us with the tools we need to better protect the public. We will restore the public's confidence and their peace of mind and that process begins now."
During the special session, Governor Rell is proposing the following changes to the penal code:
- A tougher Home Invasion law. The burglary of an occupied residence -- a home invasion -- will be increased from a Class B to a Class A felony. "This crime will now carry a 25-year sentence of which ten years may not be reduced by the court and at least 85 percent of the sentence will be served," Governor Rell said.
- Increased penalties for night-time burglaries and burglaries committed with a firearm. These crimes will now carry five-year mandatory minimum sentences.
- A tougher, tighter "persistent offender" law to provide harsher penalties for so-called career criminals.
- A workable "Three Strikes" law for repeat violent offenders. A person convicted of a third state or federal violent crime will receive a life sentence that is not be subject to review until at least 30 years have been served.
Also during the special session, Governor Rell is proposing that Connecticut take the following immediate steps to make improvements to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles:
- Create a full-time Board of Pardons and Paroles. The Board would be comprised of five full-time members and the Chairman - all of whom must be qualified by education or experience in criminal justice.
- Improve Board and Department of Correction access to juvenile and youthful offender records. "The people making decisions about community release need to have complete information - and that includes juvenile records - in order to make informed, competent decisions," Governor Rell said.
- Complete files requirement. There would now be a requirement that NO parole case would be acted upon unless the Board and the DOC have a complete file on the individual.
- Police notification requirement. When an offender is having a parole hearing, there will now be a requirement that the Board notify the police department that made the original arrest.
- Training. Require professional training for Board members and parole officers.
In addition, the Governor said that the special session needs to address the needs of victims and provide them with more rights:
- More rights for victims. All victims will be notified and given the opportunity to provide information and testimony before a plea bargain is offered and accepted.
- Uniform tracking for notification. "In addition, we should ensure that the Office of Victim Services, the Board of Pardons and