Sweeping Reforms to Connecticut's Criminal Justice System

Proposed changes include entirely new integrated computer system for all law enforcement, criminal justice and Correction officials. 

by News Staff / January 8, 2008

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
  • Paroles and the Department of Correction's victim services unit all share information about victims, so that victims are not separately tracked and become more likely to fall through the cracks for notification," Governor Rell said.
  • Expand definition of "victim." For the purpose of testifying before the Board of Pardons and Parole, the definition of "victim" will be expanded to include immediate family members of the actual victim.

 

To address the issue of offender information used by criminal justice agencies and staff, the Governor proposed the development of an entirely new integrated computer system for all law enforcement, criminal justice and Correction officials.  The new system will include case management, records management and warrant tracking systems.  The design of the system will begin immediately and will be overseen by the Criminal Justice Information System Governing Board. 

"We need to make sure that all elements of the system - all agencies - have consistent, modern information technology systems," Governor Rell said. "The people who administer our supervised community release programs are making -- quite literally

-- what can be life and death decisions.

 

"There is consensus on these proposals and we can and should move these recommendations immediately in a January special session of the General Assembly -- if ever an issue shouted 'urgency,' it is this one."

 

Governor Rell's proposals for the regular legislative session that begins in February include:

  • Additional funding for GPS monitoring
  • Additional staffing, including a staff psychiatrist position, for the Board of Pardons and Parole.
  • Expanded programs to intercept troubled youth -- to reach young people BEFORE they get involved with the criminal justice system - programs that identify troubled youth and redirect them before they get into serious trouble.

 

Additional proposals that require funding and will be considered during the regular session include re-entry programs, community-based treatment programs and increased funding for housing and jobs programs.  "These programs reduce recidivism and give ex-offenders the support and services they need to stay crime free," Governor Rell said. "Most importantly, they are proven ways of keeping our communities safer." 

"While these proposals will reform our criminal justice system, these changes are really about people - the people of Connecticut, their families and children, their communities and their safety and peace of mind," Governor Rell said.  "Our people want to know that their homes are safe - that their schools are safe - and that their children are safe. I urge the members of the General Assembly to pass these proposals.  The people of Connecticut deserve no less."