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Connecticut criminal law attorney for probation violationsThe issue of mass incarceration has received a great deal of attention in recent years. However, probation is another aspect of the criminal justice system that affects even more people than incarceration, and advocates for criminal justice reform believe that it is used far too often and imposes unnecessary restrictions that affect people’s rights. Because of this, many are calling for changes to laws and policies that would increase protections for people who are involved in criminal cases and help them receive the treatment and rehabilitation they need.

Problems With Probation

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported that in 2018, 3.54 million people in the United States were serving a sentence of probation, while 1.6 million people were incarcerated in jails and prisons. This illustrates how often sentences of probation are issued in criminal cases. In fact, probation is often the default sentence imposed when defendants make plea bargains with prosecutors and agree to plead guilty in order to receive lesser charges.

While probation is often seen as an alternative to prison that allows a defendant to receive rehabilitation while remaining integrated into the community, it can impose a number of restrictions that affect people’s rights. Those on probation are subject to supervision, monitoring, and other forms of control, and they are often required to follow multiple types of arbitrary conditions that are unrelated to their criminal charges. 

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bail, Hartford criminal defense attorneyOver the last several months, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy has been making rounds throughout the state as he tries to garner support for proposals that would continue his intended reform of the criminal justice system. The governor has labeled his efforts, which began several years ago, as “Second Chance Society” initiatives, as they focus on rehabilitating non-violent offenders and keeping them out of the state’s already crowded prisons. In 2015, Malloy was successful in getting his first series of proposals passed by the state legislature, reducing penalties and emphasizing treatment for non-violent drug offenders. This year, the governor is pushing for—among other objectives—a reform of the state’s bail programs, a change that some say is not all that necessary.

A Look at the Numbers

The Connecticut Sentencing Commission—a non-partisan committee whose membership includes judges, defense lawyers, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials—conducted a study of the current state of the bail system in Connecticut. The Commission found that of the 14,800 inmates in the state’s jails and prisons, approximately one-fourth have yet to go to trial or are awaiting sentencing. About 650 defendants are still in jail for cases in which bail was set at less than $20,000. According to the Commission’s findings, approximately 14 percent of all defendants arrested for a crime are held on some sort of financial bail.

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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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young adult, Hartford criminal defense attorneyThe 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.

Dedicated Prison

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justice reform, confidential trials, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyOver the last few years, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has certainly demonstrated his commitment to criminal justice reform throughout the state. Supporters and critics alike have acknowledged his efforts in allowing the justice system to focus on corrective action and saving the harshest penalties for the most violent and dangerous offenders. In a speech last month at the University of Connecticut School of Law in Hartford, the Democratic governor outlined additional plans to continue in that vein in the coming months. For some, however, Malloy’s proposal for confidential trials for some offenders push the limits of reform just a little too far.

Juveniles and Young Adults

There is a growing amount of research that suggests that human brain is not fully formed until a person reaches his or her mid-20s on average. The age of majority—and the age at which virtually all criminal defendants are treated as adults—in most jurisdictions is only 18. Thus, science seems to indicate, that the maturity difference between and 18-year-old and a 25-year-old is significant, especially related to criminal penalties and rehabilitation. One of Governor Malloy’s stated intentions is to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility to age 21, creating additional opportunities for reform.

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