Over the last several years, Governor Dannel P. Malloy has spearheaded efforts to reform the Connecticut criminal justice system and to reduce the state’s prison population. In 2015, Governor Malloy successfully lobbied for the reclassification of most drug possession charges as misdemeanors as opposed to felonies, thereby reducing prison sentences for non-violent offenders. Last year, he continued promoting his “Second Chance Society” measures to reform the state’s bail system and to expand the juvenile court system’s jurisdiction to include young adults up to age 21. While the initiatives failed to gain sufficient traction during 2016, both are back on the table this year.
Raising the Age
When a juvenile breaks the law, he or she, in most cases, is subject to the jurisdiction of the state’s juvenile court system. Juvenile courts are generally more focused on education and rehabilitation than punishment. The approach is intended to prevent young offenders from becoming immersed in a criminal lifestyle, pushing them instead to become productive members of society.
The issue, however, is that 18 to 24-year-olds account for a disproportionate percentage of all arrests and incarceration in the nation. These young adults, according to Governor Malloy, would be better served by a system that holds them accountable for their actions yet affords some of the protections of the juvenile courts. The governor’s proposal for this year would create a hybrid court system for young adults ages 18-20 so that their needs can be met more directly and efficiently.
The idea of a hybrid young adult court system is new this year, as last year’s bill would have simply expanded the reach of the juvenile court. As lawmakers sought reelection in 2016, the governor’s attempt to raise the age was unsuccessful. Critics of last year’s measure expressed concern that expanding the juvenile court’s jurisdiction was tantamount to excusing the criminal behavior of young adults.
Under the new system, court proceedings would be open and become public record, but the records of young offenders would remain confidential. The measure also provides that young adults charged with serious crimes would be subject to having their cases transferred automatically to the “adult” court system.
Juvenile justice researchers understand the dilemma. It would be very easy if there were a clear dividing line between a child and adult that could apply in every situation, but human development does not work that way. Thus, many believe that a flexible justice system is more appropriate for dealing with such cases.
Get Help With Your Case
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, it is important to seek legal guidance immediately. Contact an experienced Hartford criminal defense attorney and get the help you need. Call [[phone1]] to schedule a free, confidential consultation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.