WATERBURY — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy already gave up half of his criminal justice reforms, but it still may not be enough to get the legislation across the finish line Thursday when the House reconvenes for a one-day special session.
On Tuesday, Malloy announced he was ditching a proposal to have 18- to 20-year-old’s cases heard in juvenile court. With that decision, Malloy thought he had put to rest most of the criticism of the proposal, but Republican legislative leaders raised new concerns Wednesday.
The House Democratic caucus still plans on talking about the legislation privately behind closed doors Thursday before raising it for a vote.
Meanwhile, Malloy was back on the road Wednesday in Waterbury touting the need to make sure poverty isn’t what keeps individuals needlessly locked up while they wait for their court date.
“We shouldn’t have people in jail simply because they’re poor,” Malloy said.
He said it’s a costly proposition for the state at $168 per defendant, per night. Sometimes the bail for these individuals is as low as $90 and they don’t have the resources to pay it.
But Republican legislative leaders said 60 percent of the offenders who would get out of jail on a promise-to-appear in court are convicted felons. In addition, 77 percent of the people who would qualify for bond-free release have three prior convictions.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and House Republican Leader Themis Klarides,R-Derby, said they want Malloy to tighten the language regarding bail bond reform, but have not seen any updated language so were unable to say definitively what the legislation will say.
“Tomorrow the House is expected to vote on legislation that no one has seen,” Klarides said. “Based on an analysis of the daily jail population statistics Gov. Malloy has publicly released, the governor is expecting to pass legislation that would remove bond requirements for much more than low level offenses.”
Malloy said the vast majority of people being held in jail are being held because they’re poor, not because of the underlying offense.
“Ninety percent of people who get arrested leave that day or the next day on bail,” Malloy said. “That’s the reality. For the very same things they say they want to tighten it up for, 90 percent of the people arrested for those things are leaving that day.”
He said he’s only trying to get people out who can’t make bail because they are poor.
“This is not about the offense,” Malloy said.
He said he’s not trying to get someone out who is there on a $150,000 bail. Malloy also pointed out that no one will be released without having their case reviewed by a judge, who will have the ultimate say.
“If a judge finds a person is a threat to themselves or the community, they can still set bail,” Malloy said.
Fasano said statistics released by Malloy’s office on May 25 show roughly 400 pre-trial inmates are facing a misdemeanor or lower charge. Of those individuals, 83 were arrested for assault, 39 were arrested for threatening, and six were arrested for reckless endangerment, according to Fasano.
“Also of those individuals, 77 percent have three or more prior convictions and 60 percent of them have one or more prior felony convictions,” Fasano said.
Prompted with Fasano’s statement about prior convictions, Malloy reiterated that 90 percent of people charged with crimes are able to post bail.
“What we’re talking about is 10 percent,” Malloy said.
Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Malloy, said the Republicans are simply backpedaling after getting what they wanted.
“It’s clear that they would rather make impoverished citizens — many from urban areas — sit in jail rather than save millions in taxpayer dollars,” Puglia said. “After all, these are the same leaders who claim they want our justice system to operate fairly for all people, whose budget assumes the savings from closing a Connecticut prison, and who have said in the past that we should focus on the bail reform portion of Second Chance 2.0. Now, when the opportunity to do just that is before them, they’re proving once again that they are all talk and no substance.”
Puglia said they’re simply trying to create a political wedge issue rather than “do what’s right for Connecticut citizens and their state budget. It’s not just unfortunate — it relies on twisted logic, backwards policy, and ugly, hypocritical politics.”
Malloy declined to offer his predictions about whether the House will vote on bail reform Thursday.
“We’ll see,” he said.