The 2024 legislative session kicked off on February 7, 2024. This year, we’ll be advocating for reducing the collateral consequences of criminal records on housing, prohibiting police from conducting secondary traffic stops, and creating a pilot program to end automatic court docketing without prosecutorial review.
Learn more about our legislative priorities and how to take action below.
Reducing Collateral Consequences of Criminal Records on Housing
When people who are living with a record are given a fair chance to find housing, earn a job, get health insurance, and reintegrate into society, we all succeed. That’s why, this year, we’re advocating for legislation that would protect people from discrimination because of their criminal history. We want to end blanket bans on housing for people living with a record by requiring public and private housing authorities to engage in an individualized assessment of people who are living with a criminal record when they apply to housing. The individualized assessment would only consider a specific “look-back period” of a person’s criminal history – three years from the date of conviction for felonies or, if the person has been incarcerated for longer than three years, a look-back period of one year since release from incarceration.
In addition, we want to ban discriminatory practices, like asking about a person’s criminal history on initial housing applications unless required by federal law, advertising rentals with limitations based on criminal history, or lying about the availability of a rental because of a person’s criminal history. If housing applicants are being discriminated against by landlords using these tactics, they would be able to seek relief from the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
Our communities are stronger when everyone has a safe home and the opportunity to succeed. Get the toolkit to help Connecticut provide all people with access to housing so that they can grow and thrive within their community. https://www.acluct.org/en/legislation/collateral-consequences-housing
Ending Secondary Traffic Stops
Traffic stops are dangerous for all involved and are unnecessary for minor equipment and administrative issues. In 2021 alone, stops for traffic violations resulted in 117 deaths at the hands of police nationwide. In addition, the Connecticut Racial Profiling Project analyzed five years of crash data and found that the equipment and administrative issues do not contribute to crashes.
To reduce these dangerous and unnecessary traffic stops, we’re working with the Center for Policing Equity to prohibit police from conducting secondary traffic stops based on recommendations by the Police Accountability and Transparency Task Force and CT-based crash data. Secondary traffic stops are instances in which police stop drivers for things that are unrelated to whether someone is driving safely or whether their vehicle is safe to drive, and are, instead, only related to administrative or equipment reasons that don’t impact safety. These vehicular stops disproportionately affect Black and brown drivers in, both, stops that do not escalate to enforcement and end in an arrest.
As we’ve seen in the state police ticket scandal, we cannot even trust police to accurately report the traffic stops they make – or to not make up fake traffic stops. The entire traffic stop system needs an overhaul, and this is one way to cut down the opportunities for police to manipulate traffic stop numbers: by designating low-level equipment and administrative issues as secondary traffic violations and prohibiting police from making traffic stops for those violations.
Police traffic stops are the most common form of interaction between people and police, and, because of systemic racism in policing, they are particularly dangerous for Black people. Get the toolkit to help Connecticut reduce the number of dangerous and unnecessary traffic stops conducted by police in Connecticut that disproportionately harm people of color. https://www.acluct.org/en/legislation/establishing-secondary-violations
Ending Automatic Docketing of Warrantless Arrests
In Connecticut, cases are automatically docketed into the court system after arrest. Currently, when a person is arrested without a warrant, police are the ones to select charges that are then docketed for arraignment, before a prosecutor can review the case. We’re advocating for a court reform bill that would create a pilot program in judicial districts to study the feasibility of requiring all charges in warrantless arrests to be initiated by prosecutors. The pilot program would require each district’s State’s Attorney to report back to the legislature on the successes and shortcomings of the program in order to maintain transparency and accountability.
According to our court system’s own playbook, the Connecticut Practice Book, or the Superior Court Criminal Rules, this legislation describes implementing the exact process that should already be in place. However, without a legislative mandate, police and prosecutors are ignoring it. This court reform bill would enforce the charging process that police and prosecutors should be following.
Automatic docketing exacerbates the disproportionate overpolicing of people of color and allows non-prosecutors an outsized hand in determining charges, convictions, and punishments that impact the lives of real people. Get the toolkit to help Connecticut reduce the number of people that come into contact with the criminal legal system in the first place and redirect people towards appropriate diversionary programs. https://www.acluct.org/en/legislation/end-automatic-docketing