In 2016, the FBI started to track animal cruelty, including neglect, torture and sexual abuse, because of disturbing connections.
“If somebody is harming an animal, there is a good chance they also are hurting a human,” said John Thompson, the deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association. “If we see patterns of animal abuse, the odds are that something else is going on.”
In response to longstanding failures to aggressively prosecute and sentence perpetrators of animal cruelty, I developed a way for lawyers and law students to advocate for animal victims. I believe this approach can solve the problem of under-enforcement of anti-cruelty laws and achieve justice for animals.
There are an estimated 1,800 Vietnam Blue Water Navy Veterans in Connecticut. They are not entitled to VA Benefits due to exposure to herbicides, aka Agent Orange. The Agent Orange Act of 1991 was implemented to provide much-needed care to veterans who were exposed to the harmful chemical cocktail Agent Orange. In 2002, the VA amended its initial plan and excluded thousands of “Blue Water” Navy vets — vets who served right off the coast — from receiving their rightful benefits.
In an Op-ed published recently, juvenile justice-involved teenagers were referred to as “enterprising and energetic, wild and out of control.” While you’d expect to hear that from a member of Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice, this came from Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane in the Hartford Courant.
At any given time many children are in the care of Connecticut’s juvenile justice system. Everyone agrees their personal stories are troublesome, but it is also important to understand each story can be turned in a more positive direction if we as adults commit to helping each child based on their individual needs. This is the premise behind a series of recommendations the Children’s League of Connecticut (CLOC) has presented to the state Department of Children and Families(DCF), legislators and other policy-makers.
In the 1990’s, I was part of a group of women who wanted to reconcile reproductive choice with disability rights in the then new era of prenatal screening. Some in our group had disabilities such as spina bifida or muscular dystrophy that arose in utero. Others like me had conditions like cerebral palsy that occurred at or after birth but were concerned about ripple effect. Would we all become a new class of illegitimates?
In Connecticut, the greatest immediate challenge we face is the potential erosion of access to justice brought about by the state’s prolonged fiscal crisis. The Judicial Branch of our state government has worked closely with the governor and lawmakers to lessen the effect of budget cuts on the operation of our courts, but if current trends continue, we will reach a point where service reductions will make it more difficult for average citizens to access the court system.
After months of tireless work to bring awareness to state legislators about the harm associated with solitary confinement, a bill was passed that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what must happen to humanize criminal justice in this state. When states as notorious for prisoner abuse as California and Texas are making changes in prisoner treatment, one must wonder why Connecticut is lagging behind.
On June 6, the Connecticut State Legislature passed H.B. No. 7044, “An Act Concerning Pretrial Justice Reform,” which will limit the number of legally innocent people who are held in jail because they cannot pay bail. By prohibiting money bail in most misdemeanor cases, this bill will save lives. Hundreds of defendants who would have otherwise been incarcerated due to poverty alone can now defend themselves from a position of freedom without pleading guilty just to get out of jail. This is a critical step towards restoring the presumption of innocence in our court system.
This month, Connecticut legislators will decide which side of history they will join. A pending bill currently in front of the Connecticut General Assembly would ban the use of solitary confinement against juveniles and people with severe mental illness or disabilities. Under H.B. 7302, Connecticut’s Department of Corrections also would have to report on its use of solitary confinement throughout the system. Given the well-known harms that come from locking a person up for 23 hours a day, these are good and important changes.
There’s more than one kind of political leverage. There’s the kind you pull in the legislative process: bargaining, horse-trading, quid pro quo. There’s the kind you pull in swaying public opinion to pressure counterparts into dealing. Dick Blumenthal knows the difference.