Photo courtesy of the Judicial Branch web site

Another part of the budget Gov. M. Jodi Rell didn’t include in her remarks Wednesday was the closing of the courthouses in Bristol and Meriden, along with the delay of the raise the age legislation.

In her 782-page budget Rell proposed moving the caseload in Bristol to New Britain and dividing the caseload in Meriden between Middletown, Waterbury, and New Haven Courts. Rell’s Budget Secretary Robert Genuario said about 29 employees would be laid-off as a result of the closings and the other 29 employees will be spread out amongst the other courthouses.

“If you like the idea of letting violent criminals out with minor plea bargains, then you should endorse Rell’s plan,” Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, said Wednesday.

Lawlor, co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, said that “it’s a bad idea.”

In the past proposals to close the Bristol Court have been made, but moving them to an already busy New Britain Courthouse means even fewer trials, Lawlor said.

The legislature owns the courthouses and has the ability to close them without interference from the Judicial Branch.

“Even worse is closing Meriden and shifting those cases to New Haven,” Lawlor said. He said New Haven is probably one of the busiest courts in the state already and the consolidation would ensure no trials and more lenient plea bargains.

“If you like plea bargaining you should love the governor’s plan,” he said.

He said he assumed she would deliver a serious budget address, but the one she delivered Wednesday seems to be all “smoke and mirrors.”

As far as her proposal to delay the so-called raise the age legislation, which would spare 16 and 17 years olds from heading to adult prisons, proponents of the legislation feel it’s shortsighted to delay implementation.

“Connecticut made a commitment to implement this reform by 2010,” a statement from the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance says. “This delay will balance no budgets. In fact, it will encourage many short-sighted spending practices.”

“Kids sent to adult prisons are more likely to reoffend and to escalate into serious crime than peers in the juvenile system,” the statement goes onto say. “This comes as no surprise, since the juvenile system offers far more rehabilitative services. Raising the Age will reduce repeat crime and make Connecticut safer.”