Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will target bail bond reform as part of his Second Chance Society 2.0.
At the Citadel of Love, a church in the north end of Hartford, Malloy said there are too many Connecticut residents sitting in jail because they can’t post a $20,000 bond, which requires them to pay between $250 and $2,000.
Malloy wants to let these individuals go on a promise-to-appear in court.
The legislation he will propose next week will prohibit a judge from setting a money bail for anyone charged with a misdemeanor, with a few exceptions. The legislation would give a judge discretion to impose a cash bond on individuals who pose an immediate threat to the health or well-being of another person.
Certain misdemeanors, like domestic violence charges, would not qualify under Malloy’s proposal.
Research shows that individuals who are held in jail for 8 to 14 days are 56 percent more likely to be rearrested before trial and 51 percent more likely to recidivate after sentence completion, Malloy said. That’s because that individual is likely to lose their job, housing, or contact with their support network while they sit in jail.
Today, there are 451 individuals in the system that fall under that definition, according Malloy’s criminal justice adviser, Michael Lawlor.
If a bond with surety is set as a condition of release, the governor’s legislation would give defendants an opportunity to make a cash deposit of 10 percent to the court or hire a bail bondsman.
“This option would allow defendants alternatives to bail bondsman,” Malloy said.
If the defendant showed up for each of their court dates, they would receive that 10 percent deposit back from the court. If they don’t, the money would be used to help legal service organizations.
Malloy said that 7 percent fee defendants pay to a bail bondsman never comes back. He said bail is meant to ensure the defendant appears in court and not to extend “our historically flawed system of permanent punishment.”
Daniel Baba of Ali Baba Bonds in Hartford attended the press conference and offered a mixed review of Malloy’s proposal.
Baba said the devil will be in the details, but he can’t think of a time when a first-time offender wasn’t released on a promise-to-appear.
He said most times their friends and family know the defendant is in jail and they don’t want to bail him out.
“He said a lot of nice things, but what is actually the bill. What is going to be on paper?” Baba said.
At first glance though, Baba said the system that allows the judge to take a cash deposit of 10 percent from a defendant is only going to benefit defendants with money.
“This isn’t going to benefit anybody in the north end,” Baba said.
The Malloy administration anticipates there will be some resistance to the proposal from the bail bond industry that profits off the current system by collecting a 7 percent charge of total bail without returning funds to the accused.
Asked if the bail bondsman serve a role in making sure defendants show up for court, Malloy said he thinks defendants with bonds under $20,000 show up for court more often than they don’t.
Malloy’s proposal was endorsed by the co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, and Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Bloomfield. Both Coleman and Tong attended Thursday’s press conference, along with Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.
Coleman said he believes this proposal and last year’s legislation, which treats drug possession as a misdemeanor and eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug possession, are making the justice system more fair.
“We must continue to be a society of permanent reformation and improvement, instead of permanent punishment,” Malloy said.
Last year, Malloy announced that he also plans to introduce legislation to allow all low-risk offenders under the age of 20 to be tried in the juvenile justice system rather than adult court, and he will expand the definition of youthful offender to include 18- to 20-year-olds, which will allow the group to permanently seal their record after completing their sentence.
“Our prisons should not be crime schools for our youngest, most impressionable offenders,” Malloy said.
Malloy touted the success of the court law, which raised the age of youthful offenders to 17.
Between 2008 and 2014, the number of 15 to 19 year olds arrested in Connecticut dropped 54 percent. Arrests among 17-year-olds fell from 6,600 in 2008 to 2,600 in 2014, a 60 percent reduction. The number of inmates under 18 has dropped from 332 in 2009 to 82 in 2015.
“We know what works,” Malloy said. “Let’s implement it.”