FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — Gov. Dannel Malloy joined lawmakers, state officials and advocates for a bill-signing ceremony Thursday to commemorate the final passage into law of the “Second Chance Society” legislation.
The legislation was approved late last month with a bipartisan vote in both chambers of the General Assembly. It will cut the penalty on many drug possession crimes in the state from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Introduced by Malloy earlier this year, the package of initiatives is designed to continue the reduction the state’s dropping crime rate, which is at a 48-year low, as well as ensure that nonviolent offenders are reintegrated into society and become productive workers.
“By signing this legislation into law, we are making real, systematic change to our state’s crime fighting strategy. We can truly be tough on crime by being smart on crime,” Malloy said. “The cycle our system currently encourages – one of permanent punishment – hurts too many families and communities.
"When we should have been focusing on permanent reform, we focused on permanent punishment. For too long, we built modern jails instead of modern schools. Because this bill passed, Connecticut has taken a giant step into the future.”
Malloy noted that the initiatives are similar to criminal justice policies being implemented in states throughout the country.
“Our law enforcement professionals and courts can focus on lowering crime even further by channeling efforts towards serious, violent criminals and putting them behind bars for longer sentences," Malloy said. "And most of all, these initiatives are focused on turning nonviolent offenders into productive members of our society that can contribute to our economy, rather than drain it.”
The legislation takes action in several areas:
- Reduces the penalty for possession of drugs from a felony with a seven-year maximum sentence (two years mandatory if within 1,500 feet of a school or daycare center) to a misdemeanor with a maximum of one year in jail, no mandatory jail sentence.
- Establishes an expedited parole process for nonviolent, no-victim offenses. This will allow decisions to be made without a formal hearing.
- Establishes an expedited pardons process for ex-offenders in nonviolent, no-victim cases after a period of time following the end of their full sentence. The bill also requires every offender to be provided with a plain-language explanation of how and when they are eligible to apply for a pardon at the time of sentencing, at the completion of probation, at release from prison, and at completion of parole supervision.
The “Second Chance Society” initiatives build upon a series of criminal justice initiatives the State of Connecticut has implemented over the last four years, including:
- Reforms to the juvenile justice system, working to close the school to prison pipeline
- Restoration of the state’s crime lab to eliminate backlogs and restore it to best-in-the-nation status
- Integration of federal, state, and local law enforcement into communities through community policing and programs such as Project Longevity
- Removal of dangerous guns from the streets with gun buy backs, and approval of gun violence prevention legislation
- Targeting violent offenders in communities and putting them away for longer sentences
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