With the recent tragedies in Orlando, Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas, this is a sad time for our nation and each and every one of its residents. It highlights in so many ways the worst of our instincts and policy failures –- lack of understanding, tolerance and acceptance as equals of the many groups that comprise this great nation; the ease with which weapons of war are obtained and used against both ordinary people and law enforcement officers; racial divisiveness, fear and fear-mongering promulgated by individuals, groups and mass media yearning for provocative messaging.
Over the last week, the nation has witnessed horror. The events have shocked our collective soul. They have been jolts to our conscience – both in Connecticut and across the country – that require a moment of mass reflection.
The the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) settled a long-running, high-profile case involving the Connecticut Democratic Party (CDP). Although the terms of the settlement are commendable in many respects–including imposing the largest election law violation fine (excuse me, “voluntary payment”) in state history–the SEEC exercised poor judgment in deciding to settle the case. Rightly or wrongly, justly or unjustly, the settlement creates the appearance that a major political party in Connecticut can “buy” its way out of an embarrassing investigation by the chief regulator of our state campaign finance laws.
At the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS), workers compensation claims are soaring, mostly because staff is frequently injured putting youth in physical restraints. The Department of Children and Families and union officials told The Connecticut Mirror that restraints are necessary because youth at the facility are so difficult. They point to recent policies that removed many young people from CJTS, leaving only the most challenging youth at the facility. This reaction is disturbing on several levels and underlines the need to work toward closing CJTS.
The recently settled case between the State Elections Enforcement Commission, the Democratic State Central Committee and the Dan Malloy for Governor campaign needs further disclosure. The DSCC and Malloy campaign made a sham of the Citizen’s Election Program . The settlement was made without allowing the SEEC the ability to conduct a reasonable investigation.
Ironically, one of the arguments against recently proposed criminal justice reform makes a strong case for reform of Connecticut’s sex offender registry. A listing on the sex offender registry can be a life sentence. There is no distinction between a sociopathic serial offender and a teen who makes a one-time mistake. Further, we believe all low-risk individuals should never make it on the registry.
With the state’s new fiscal reality as background, the Children’s League of Connecticut has offered a number of policy based solutions meant to improve the quality of life for youth and families served by the Connecticut juvenile justice system. In many cases these concepts will result in lower costs to taxpayers and in all cases we believe our suggestions will result in better outcomes for youth and their families — which should be everyone’s goal.
In 2014, at York Correctional Institution, Amy Rolon fell from her wheelchair. Nearby, correction officers watched her fall. Rolon, who was suffering from heroin withdrawal, writhed on the ground after hitting her head. She tried to climb back into the wheelchair and fell again. For 20 minutes, scores of staff members at York witnessed Rolon struggle. Nobody helped.
After stalling out during the regular legislative season, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposal for a Second Chance Society is awaiting action by the General Assembly later this week. Among other things, the governor asked for the elimination of bail bonds for misdemeanor offenses and that 18- to 20-years be tried as juveniles — an idea that engendered both support and opposition. The governor has now dropped the age adjustment idea as a political compromise, but a long list of witnesses provided testimony both for and against the idea during a Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this year. Here are some excerpts from witnesses on the age issue and the bail legislation as well:
What is it that we can’t find out lately in the land of the free, in this cradle of democracy we call Connecticut? Too much stays secret. Our collective memory of Ella Grasso is fading. You may remember she was the first woman in America elected governor of her state in her own right. She convinced a unanimous legislature – unanimous – of the value to democracy in having state Freedom of Information laws and of setting up the nation’s first FOI Commission. Now it’s not going so well.
In an ideal world, perhaps we wouldn’t matter. People would not need to access the judicial system to resolve disputes or protect their rights. They would not experience discrimination. Tenants would be able to have reasonable discussions with their landlords and arrive at an outcome acceptable to all parties. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world.