The legislative task force created in 2009 to curb domestic violence is again proposing a number of bills it says will help victims of domestic violence.
Top on its list this year is improving how the bail bond system works.
At the moment criminal offenders, including abusers, are able to get out of jail having paid little or nothing, House Speaker Chris Donovan said.
“In some cases people who go to court are arrested, they’re given a bail, but because of some illegal activity by bail bondsmen they can get out on the streets having paid little or nothing in terms of bail,” he said.
That means they didn’t have that cooling down period and have gone back home in some instances and caused some problems, he added.
Rep. Mae Flexer, who chairs the task force, said the current bail bond system has allowed some really heinous offenders to get out in a quick period of time and go onto “re-offend, assault their victims, and tragically at times murder their victims.”
The most recent example of this was last January when immediately after being released by police Selami Ozdemir posted bail and went home and killed his wife and himself.
Back in 2000 immediately after being released by the West Hartford Police Jessie Campbell III shot the mother of his son while she was visiting a friend’s home. What the West Hartford Police didn’t know when they released him was that Campbell had already violated at least three protective orders.
Flexer said currently the Insurance Department regulates the bail bond system and they do not have the authority to punish bail bondsmen who violate the law.
“We’re looking at increasing the Insurance Department’s authority and we’re evaluating overall the bail bond system and the state’s ability to regulate it,” she said. “Perhaps the Department of Public Safety may be a more appropriate place for the regulation of the bail bond system, but that determination has yet to be made.”
In 2008, one year after a federal investigation brought down New Haven’s most prominent bail bond family and more than four years after a nonpartisan office found the potential for corruption in Connecticut’s bail bond system, lawmakers proclaimed that this was the year the legislature was going to take action to reform the corrupt bail bond system. Then-Rep. Michael Lawlor, who co-chaired the Judiciary Committee, proposed legislation which would transfer oversight of the state’s troubled bail bond system to the Public Safety Department and require routine training of bail bondsmen.
Currently, bail bondsmen are asking their clients to put up 2 or 3 percent of the bond, instead of the requisite 10 percent. By letting these people out of jail on such little amounts of money it creates a churning effect and it‘s something judges are aware of when they sets bonds artificially high.
“Who is going to complain they were charged too little?” Lawlor wondered back in 2008.
Lawmakers at the press conference Monday acknowledged the legislature has ignored the issue for far too long and this year will be the year action is taken.
“What does make it a little bit different this year is the focus of this group on that issue,” Flexer said. “I’m looking forward to the task force working with all members of the legislature, getting a broad base of input to come up with a way that at the very least, reforms the bail bond system in the way that effects victims of domestic violence.”
Some of the other recommendations the task force is making include requiring defendants, if a protective order is issued, to surrender their firearms to someone outside of the household, allow protective orders to cover dating and other relationships, allow teens to secure restraining orders against other teens, and identify funding to maintain a pilot program which tracks offenders with GPS technology. All 20 of the recommendations the task force made Monday will be included in various pieces of legislation which will start in the Judiciary Committee and Human Services Committee.
“Domestic violence is still a big problem in our state with thousands of people seeking care in our shelters and we need to help those people and also reduce the incidents of domestic violence,” Donovan said.
Click here to read a complete list of their recommendations.