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Hartford defense attorney criminal justice system

For years, advocates have claimed that the criminal justice system in the United States is unjust toward certain groups of people. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one in three black men and one in six Latino men can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetimes, compared to only one in 17 white men. A majority of the country agrees that the U.S. criminal justice system needs to be reformed. One of the main ways of doing this is through the actions of prosecutors, who play a crucial role in the criminal justice process.

Bill Passes in Both CT House and Senate

A bill was recently passed in both the Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives that will require more transparency when it comes to Connecticut prosecutors in the criminal justice system. The bill, which was passed with a rare unanimous vote in both the House and Senate, will require the state to create a public website to publish information such as demographic information about defendants that prosecutors do and do not prosecute, in addition to information about prosecutors’ actions on charging, diversionary programs, plea deals, and sentencing.

The Significance of Prosecutors

Many people believe that prosecutors hold the key to criminal justice reform in the United States. Prosecutors are responsible for many different decisions that are made during the criminal justice process. They determine whether or not a charge is changed or dropped, whether or not a plea deal is offered to a defendant, whether or not bail is recommended, how a case is investigated, and whether or not defendants get the opportunity to participate in diversionary programs, such as drug court.

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DNA, Hartford criminal defense lawyerThanks to television shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Law & Order, their respective spin-offs, and similar programs, the average person tends to have an unrealistic view of criminal forensics. The limitations of television require such shows to compress months of police work and lab testing into 60 minutes—less if you are not counting commercial breaks. Additionally, the accuracy of the labs on these shows is rarely, if ever, questioned. In reality, however, certain forensic testing processes may not be as accurate as we have been led to believe, including the near-sacred area of DNA testing.

A Troubling Study

In a disturbing study, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology tested the accuracy of 108 separate crime labs, including 105 in the United States and three in Canada. To do so, the team sent the same mixture of DNA to each lab and asked the labs to compare the mixture to DNA taken from three known “suspects.”

The mixture actually contained DNA from just two of the suspects, and most of the labs correctly identified the DNA from those two. However, more than 70 of the testing facilities found that the sample included DNA from the third individual as well. The problem, obviously, is that the third person’s DNA was not part of the mixture. This means that their report would have implicated an innocent person for the crime in a real-world scenario.

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bail, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyOver the last several years, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy has been at the forefront of criminal justice reform. He has championed a series of measures to create what he has called a “Second Chance Society,” which focuses on educating and rehabilitating criminal offenders rather than jumping right into severe punishments. Most of the Second Chance Society efforts have been directed toward helping low-level, non-violent offenders. Recently, however, Governor Malloy turned his attention to those who have not yet been tried or convicted, as he sought to improve the state’s bail system and reduce the population of local and county jails.

Pretrial Justice

When a person is arrested on suspicion that he or she committed a crime, the suspect must often wait several days before he or she is brought before a judge for an arraignment. In the meantime, many defendants are forced to sit in jail because they cannot afford to pay cash bail. The wait is often much longer between arraignment and trial. Even a few days in detention, however, can be problematic for low-income individuals, as they may be forced to miss work. The resulting instability can ultimately lead to a cycle of criminal behavior.

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mentally ill, Hartford criminal defense lawyerThe town of Preston, Connecticut, is home to a site popular among enthusiasts of the strange and paranormal. The crumbling remains of an asylum—most recently known as the Norwich State Hospital, but once called The Norwich Hospital for the Insane—have been used as a backdrop for haunted house reality television shows and as a project for paranormal investigators. Apart from being scary and disturbing, the abandoned asylum—which closed in 1996—begs an altogether different question. If asylums were once common throughout the country as a home or care facility for the mentally ill, what are we doing with such individuals now that most such facilities are closing? The answer, according to many, seems to be that we are simply holding them in different institutions now—institutions known as correctional facilities or prisons.

Staggering Estimates

According to data collected by the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), a nonprofit organization which helps the mentally ill get the treatment they need, the American prison system currently houses more inmates with severe mental illness than are in state psychiatric hospitals—and the numbers are not even close. The TAC reported that in 2012, more than 350,000 inmates with severe mental illness were incarcerated, but only about 35,000 severely mentally patients were under the care of state hospitals.

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