Malloy: Let’s provide a ‘second chance’ for certain criminals

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has unveiled what he called “Second Chance Society” initiatives that would change Connecticut’s criminal justice system.

Speaking at Yale Law School on Tuesday, Malloy said the proposals are “designed to continue the progress being made in reducing the state’s dropping crime rate, which is currently at a 48-year low, as well ensuring nonviolent offenders are being reintegrated into society and become productive members of Connecticut’s economy.”

During the last four years, Malloy said, violent crime is down 36% and criminal arrests have decreased by nearly 28%. Violent crime in the state’s three largest cities has fallen 15% since 2008.

Five specific proposals

Citing that data, Malloy proposed action on five areas:

•    Reclassifying certain nonviolent offenses;

•    Eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug possession;

•    Streamlining Connecticut’s parole system “to make it more efficient and effective”;

•    Streamlining the state’s pardon system to give ex-offenders a better chance at employment;

•    Creating real job and housing opportunities for ex-offenders.

‘Build upon the progress’

“These initiatives build upon the progress we’ve made in recent years reducing crime rates across Connecticut,” Malloy said in a statement. “They will help break the cycle of crime and poverty that hurts too many families and communities.

“Make no mistake, a crime is a crime,” he continued. “Offenders should be held accountable and there should be punishment. But punishments for nonviolent offenses should not last a lifetime. They should not destroy a person’s hope for redemption or a better future.”

Punish the violent offenders

The governor said his initiatives will allow law enforcement professionals and courts “to focus on serious crime and to better pursue and punish violent felons, putting them behind bars for longer sentences.”

Malloy said his initiative comes as “a new, bipartisan national consensus is building behind a ‘Second Chance Society’ in states across the country, including in Texas, Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama.”

Crime reduction progress

The governor cited actions implemented during his first four years in office as having helped to reduce the crime rate in the state. These include:

•    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;

•    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.

‘We have to do better’

Malloy said while violent offenders are spending long periods in jail, “we can’t be a perpetually punitive society. We have to do better in Connecticut.

“We have to become a ‘Second Chance Society’ where we don’t permanently punish nonviolent offenders, swelling our prisons and creating lifetime criminals out of people who made one mistake.,” he said.

Malloy’s initiatives will be included in his legislative package of proposals for the 2015 session of the state legislature.