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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, people across the country have been advocating for the release of some of the inmates in the prisons and jails across the country who are either unable to post bail or who do not pose a risk to the community or who have been incarcerated for low-level offenses. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that spreads easily through respiratory droplets when people are in close contact with one another. Prison conditions make this an ideal environment for COVID-19 to run rampant among populations, making it a concern for many. According to the Marshall Project, there have been more than 102,000 COVID-19 cases among the prison population as of August 18. The pandemic affected every aspect of life, but it affected prison systems exceptionally so, with issues reaching into the Connecticut Department of Corrections.

Mental Health Services Have Suffered

One of the biggest issues that the prison system has faced during the pandemic has been figuring out how to manage the mental health needs of the current and incoming inmates while maintaining safety measures. Throughout the pandemic, mental health services available to inmates have been limited and routine elective outpatient psychotherapy was suspended for most inmates.

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Hartford, CT criminal law attorney bailMost people have a basic understanding of how the criminal process works: you are charged with a crime, you must appear in court, a judge or jury determines whether or not you are guilty, and if you are convicted, you serve your sentence. But what happens before any of that even begins? Before you can appear in court to address criminal charges, you will have to attend a pretrial release hearing. During this hearing, a judge will determine whether or not to release you before your trial and whether there should be any conditions on your release. Typically, this is where bail comes in to play.

What Is Pretrial Detention?

The term pretrial detention refers to the period of time that a person is incarcerated before they attend their trial. At the pretrial release hearing, the judge will set bail, which is a monetary amount that you must pay before you can be released. In Connecticut, there are two different types of bail:

  1. A person may pay the amount of bail in cash. This amount will be returned to the accused as long as they return to court for their trial; otherwise, the money is forfeited.
  2. If a person is unable to afford the full amount of bail, they may have a bail bondsman post bail for them. They will be required to pay a surety bond to the bail bondsman, which is typically 10% of the amount of bail. Bail bondsmen can be used in state crimes, but they cannot be used by those who are arrested for a federal crime.

The Issues With the Current Bail and Pretrial Detention System

Between 1970 and 2015, there was a 433% increase in the average number of people in pretrial detention throughout the United States. Bail is one of the biggest reasons for this increase. The average amount of bail for a felony charge ranges from $10,000 to $12,000. Since many people cannot afford to pay this amount, they end up spending weeks or even months in jail while waiting for their trial to take place.

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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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East Hartford, CT 06108
Phone: 860-290-8690
Fax: 860-290-8697
We are available by appointment during evening and weekend hours, if necessary.

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