HARTFORD, CT — A proposal that would allow some on the sex offender registry to petition to shorten their registration period or apply for removal from the registry was unanimously approved Thursday by the Sentencing Commission.
The Sentencing Commission also approved recommending reducing misdemeanor sentencing from 365 days to 364 days. That one day would give immigration judges more discretion in deportation hearings. They decided to continue to study the issue of a constitutional amendment on pre-trial release and detention that would deny release to high-risk defendants and deny detention for lack of funds to secure a bail bond.
On the sex registry proposal, it would give those on the registry an opportunity to petition to shorten their registration period or apply for removal from the public registry. In order to do so the registrant would have to show that they have reduced their risk to the community.
Under the recommendation a person could be on the registry for shorter periods than under the current system, and others would be on for longer periods.
In order to petition the registrant would have to show that they have reduced their risk to the community. Under the new system a person could be on the registry for shorter periods than under the current system, and others would be on for longer periods.
Thomas Ullman, a former public defender from New Haven, said it was a “good proposal.”
“This can only help people who are stuck on the registry who we all believe should not be on,” Ullman said. He said being on the registry affects those on the registry’s “ability to get housing, jobs — it leads to criminality.”
Judge Robert Devlin, co-chair of the Sentencing Commission, acknowledged that “anything involved with sex crimes is controversial.”
However, Devlin added, the proposed changes are good because it pushes the sex offender registry from an “offense-based system to a risk-based system.”
Robert Farr, co-chair of the Sentencing Commission and a former lawmaker, said the changes proposed are fair for everyone.
“It’s not a tougher on crime or easier on crime legislation,” Farr said. “It’s a smarter on crime.”
Changing Misdemeanor Sentencing
Currently any state misdemeanor offense with a sentence of one year or more is treated as an “aggravated felony” by the federal court system and could cause someone to be deported, according to Ana Maria Rivera, of the Connecticut Immigration Rights Alliance.
During the public hearing on the proposal, Rivera told the Sentencing Commission it would ensure Connecticut immigrants and families won’t be subject to the most severe immigration consequences.
The commission approved the recommendation Thursday after a lengthy discussion about whether it was proper for the commission to be treading in the area of immigration law.
“Immigration law in our country is highly controversial,” Devlin said. “Do we risk politicizing our commission?”
Litchfield County State’s Attorney David Shepack, another member of the Sentencing Commission, said that acting on such a recommendation “moves us into the advocacy mode.”
He said it was better left to legislators to “change the relationship between the state of Connecticut and the federal government.”
But those concerns were outweighed by members of the commission who argued that it was not only their right but their responsibility to make such recommendations.
“I worry we will be seen as ducking the issue” if the commission didn’t recommend the change, Vivien Blackford, commission member and founder and chairman of the Phoenix Organization, said.
Ullman added that the commission “shouldn’t shy away from it just because it’s a little higher” on the political agenda.