Marijuana is bad, but let’s legalize it anyway

I don’t smoke pot. Never did (OK, five times—literally). So I don’t have (much) skin in the debate over legalizing marijuana. But I have been thinking about questions that could guide the debate. These questions aren’t about drug control, per se, but about the proper role of the government in regulating trade, morality and public health.

Connecticut getting smart on juvenile justice

You don’t teach trigonometry to third graders or spend time helping high school sophomores learn their colors. Educators have always understood that curriculum needs to be appropriate to the student’s development. If the juvenile justice system aims to teach better ways of interacting with the world, the system needs to be built around developmental stages, as several initiatives in Connecticut propose.

Legislators, move the parental rights bills

On behalf of myself and hundreds of other parents in Connecticut, we are wondering what caused the languishing of nearly 15 parental rights related bills? I am not aware of public hearings related to any of our bills, yet many other child welfare related bills were afforded a hearing, such as An Act Concerning the Use of Recycled Tire Rubber at Municipal and Public School Playgrounds. If this Act made it to a public hearing, what about bills concerning fundamental parental rights? Why did they die in committee? Will any of them make it to a public hearing? We are very concerned.

Free speech defense bill will combat ‘libel tourism’ in Connecticut

In the internet age when, at the press of a button, the spoken and written word can be transported around the world virtually instantaneously, our Constitutional freedom of expression is at increased risk from a relatively unrecognized threat – that of “libel tourism.” Fortunately, CT S.B. 69: “An Act Concerning the Enforcement of Foreign Libel Judgments” is the cure, and has been introduced this session.

How should we remember World War I?

How should World War I be remembered? Connecticut libraries and historical groups are now gearing up for this year’s 100th anniversary of April 6, 1917– the day we entered the “Great War.” What exactly will we commemorate? Thirty-seven million people were killed in the war from 1914 to 1918. U.S. forces averaged 297 casualties a day. Here was a conflict, historian Howard Zinn wrote, where “no one since that day has been able to show that the war brought any gain for humanity that would be worth one human life.”

Book review: A big favor for criminal justice in Connecticut

History rarely bothers with prisons. Famous crimes get plenty of coverage, but not their aftermath. If a notorious defendant is sent off to the pokey, he, like his fellow inmates, is soon out of sight and mind. And yet, the treatment of crime and criminals is a vastly important and complex issue, at the core of societal values and beliefs, a test Winston Churchill said, of a country’s civilization. It also represents massive expense. Gordon S. Bates has done Connecticut a big favor by holding a mirror up to the state’s criminal justice history.

CT prison education cuts likely to hurt rehabilitation effort

Just this month, The Crime Report – a publication out of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York – congratulated Connecticut as a model of prison reform, saying the rates of imprisonment in the state are the lowest they’ve been in 20 years. The party seems premature, even undeserved when one knows what’s really happening inside the state’s prisons. As a part of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget cutting frenzy, Connecticut’s correctional education – the programming most likely to aid a prisoner’s rehabilitation – is disappearing.

Donald Trump and arguments from ignorance

Most people, even very young children, have an intuitive sense that proof of the existence of something is required before that “something” is acknowledged as true. Kids say “prove it.” Adults understand that the burden of proof is almost always on the party asserting the truth of something. For example, in our justice system the burden of proof is on the state (in a criminal action) and the plaintiff (in a civil action). A defendant does not have to prove his innocence; the state must prove his guilt–beyond a reasonable doubt. For some reason, however, this very simple concept seems to get lost in the political realm.

Budget cuts to Judicial Branch undermine access to justice

It is clear that once again lawmakers in Hartford are going to spend much of next year seeking to reduce spending in state government as a means of balancing the budget. A projected shortfall of more than $1 billion means that almost every budget item is vulnerable to spending reductions. In the face of this challenge, it is important for the legislature to decide at the beginning of the process which parts of the budget should be classified as essential to the general public and maintained at current levels. Our state court system surely must be placed in this category.