HARTFORD, CT — The House suspended its rules Thursday to send two bills to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The first would require police officers to determine the primary aggressor in intimate partner domestic violence calls and the other would prevent shackling of pregnant prisoners and other policies regarding women’s health while incarcerated.
The bill that would require law enforcement to be trained identifying the primary aggressor in a domestic violence call passed 147-1. Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, was the only lawmaker to vote against the bill.
Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, said the legislation seeks to reduce the number of dual arrests.
Connecticut police officers arrest both parties involved in a domestic violence incident 20 percent of the time, according to a report by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. That’s more than double the national average and it means that the victim is being arrested along with the abuser.
Rep. Robyn Porter, a New Haven Democrat who is a domestic violence survivor, said “it’s time.” She said no victim should have to worry about being arrested when they call the police.
“Nobody should be arrested for being a victim,” she said. “Nobody should be arrested for self-defense.
She said the current law prevents victims from calling law enforcement because they’re concerned about the impact their arrest would have on their children.
“If you call the cops, and you defend yourself you’re going to be arrested,” Porter said.
Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, said if she was attacked that she would fight back and defend herself more aggressively than her attacker and as a result might deserve to be arrested.
“If someone injures me I’m gonna give it back and I may be a little more aggressive,” she said.
She said the legislation still allows an officer to arrest both parties. She said she trusts law enforcement to make the right call.
Fishbein, the lone vote against the bill, said sometimes a dual arrest is warranted. He said courts are open the following day and should be able to sort it out. He said this legislation puts law enforcement in a position of making a call on a domestic situation.
Fishbein, an attorney who handles many divorces, said “Sometimes domestic violence is arranged, involved and sometimes it’s real—many times it’s real.”
He said he sees the legislation as “a feel good bill.”
The bill unanimously passed the Senate and is headed to Malloy’s desk.
A bill that would prohibit the shackling of female prisoners passed the House 148-0 and is headed for Malloy’s signature.
The bill codifies what is currently the practice at the Department of Correction.
The legislation would also allow female prisoners to pump and store their breast milk so their babies could benefit.
The legislation also requires the state to provide female inmates with feminine hygiene products for free and “in a quantity that is appropriate to the health care needs of the inmate.”
In addition, it requires the Department of Correction to place transgender people who are incarcerated in facilities that correspond with their gender identities.
“While Connecticut still has a long way to go toward respecting all incarcerated people’s human rights, dignity, health, and Constitutional rights, S.B. 13 is a critical step toward stopping the cycle of trauma for incarcerated women, transgender people, and families,” Sandy LoMonico, criminal justice organizer for the ACLU of Connecticut, said.
Following the vote, Malloy said the legislation, which he helped introduce and plans to sign was one of his proudest accomplishments of his public career.
“Women in the criminal justice system face unique challenges and barriers to success,” Malloy said. “The legislation approved in the House today is about taking a compassionate yet practical approach to improving the way our institutions treat incarcerated women.”
Both bills were on the agenda a group of female lawmakers were looking to get passed this legislative session.