Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has become relatively well-known throughout the country over the last few years. Since taking office in January 2011, the Democratic governor has built himself a reputation for his sustained efforts regarding criminal justice reform throughout the state. Impressive results, including a drop of more than 20 percent in the state’s prison population and nearly a 30 percent reduction in violent and property crime, earned Malloy a spot as an invited guest to President Obama’s State of the Union Address earlier this month.
As his reform efforts continue, Governor Malloy is turning his attention to the state’s bail system. In a recent letter to the Connecticut Sentencing Commission, Malloy requested that the commission take up the concern, consider the various options, and make recommendations to the legislature about changes to the existing law. The Sentencing Commission exists primarily as a review and advisory body and includes appointed individuals, as well as the state’s Commissioner of Correction, Chief Public Defender, and other influential officeholders.
Poorest of the Poor
The primary concern regarding the bail system in Connecticut and one that is shared with jurisdictions around the country is that current policies are not necessarily keeping communities safer. Bail is intended to ensure that a criminal defendant appears in court to answer to charges against him or her. A defendant without the financial resources to post bail or to secure a bond has no other option but to remain in jail while awaiting trial. This has led to concerns that the existing system, which does not account for financial considerations, disproportionately affects lower-income defendants. Even the U.S. Justice Department has weighed in on the problem, issuing a fact sheet in December acknowledging that a broken bail program “can also result in detaining the poorest defendants rather than the most dangerous.”
Similar Offenses, Less Resources
Governor Malloy said in his letter that about 1,200 defendants are currently in custody, unable to post bail of $50,000 or less. Approximately half have had their bail set at $20,000 or less, many of them accused of low-level, non-violent crimes. According to the state agency tasked with enforcing bail statutes, a defendant being held on $20,000 bail would need to pay at least $1,550 to be released, about $540 of that due immediately. The rest could be paid over the next 15 months, an average payment of about $67. For many defendants, such an item of expenditure is simply not possible.
Such defendants are not being held due to the risk of flight or danger to the community, “but merely because they are poor,” Malloy wrote. “There are others just like them who have committed similar crimes under similar circumstances who are walking free because of the simple fact that they have the financial means to do so.”
Changes Could Lie Ahead
While the Governor has expressed his hope that lawmakers begin to consider bail reform when they return next month, the Sentencing Commission is unlikely to have full recommendations anytime soon. Representatives from the commission have indicated that the earliest reasonable expectations would have a report ready in time for the 2017 legislative session.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime and you need assistance navigating the state’s current bail system, contact an experienced Hartford Criminal defense attorney. At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we are committed to helping you protect your rights and ensuring you get the quality legal representation you deserve. Call [[phone1]] to schedule a confidential consultation today.