The state of Connecticut, in recent years, has been taken a leadership role in the national conversation regarding criminal justice reform thank, in large part, to the efforts of Governor Dannel Malloy. In the last year, Governor Malloy has focused much of his political attention on building what has become known as his “Second Chance Society,” one that, in his own words is “a little more forgiving” of those who may have broken the law but are willing “to fly right.”
As part of the initiative, penalties have already been reduced for simple drug possession, including the elimination of minimum sentences for nonviolent offenses. Now, Governor Malloy has set his sights on reforming the Connecticut juvenile justice system, aiming to prevent young lawbreakers from being forsaken as career criminals. While some of his ideas regarding juvenile justice have been met with skepticism—and in some cases, outright criticism—the governor and his supporters maintain the average 18-year-old is not mature enough to assume adult criminal responsibility. Lawmakers have yet to act on the juvenile reform proposals, but there is at least one major change in the works anyway.
In December, state officials announced that one of Connecticut’s 18 prisons would be converted to house only male inmates between the ages of 18 and 25. A similar in-house program will also be introduced at the York women’s facility in Niantic. The young adult prison would be specifically tailored to address the unique needs of a younger age group, in recognition of the impressionable nature of such inmates.
Within the new prison, which is expected to be open by January of 2017, the focus would be primarily on education and rehabilitation, rather than punishment. There is the added benefit, according to Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple, of keeping young offenders away from more hardened individuals. “Having a 21-year-old kid hanging around with a career criminal, bank robber and murderer probably doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Semple said. Keeping them separate can help prevent the abuse and manipulation by older inmates that has presented problems in the past.
The plan does not require legislative approval. As of yet, there has been no indication regarding which existing facility is expected to be converted.
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