In March 2023, ACLU of Connecticut Smart Justice leader Brittany LeMarr testified in support of S.B. 1071, a bill to ban police from using deceptive interrogation tactics against children, during its public hearing in the Judiciary Committee. The following is her testimony:
Senator Winfield, Representative Stafstrom, Ranking Members Senator Kissel and Representative Fishbein, and distinguished members of the Judiciary Committee:
My name is Brittany Lamar, I am a resident of Cromwell and a Leader with the ACLU of Connecticut Smart Justice Campaign. I am here to testify in support of Senate Bill 1071, An Act Concerning Deceptive or Coercive Interrogation Tactics.
No one, including children, should be imprisoned because police coerced them into a false confession. I teach my children, to be honest. Honesty promotes trust, fosters healthy and strong relationships, and prevents harm. And naturally, honesty stands in contrast to lying. It is the opposite of deception, manipulation and coercion. SB 1071 would end the use of deceptive interrogation tactics by police against children by creating a judicial check on confessions if they were knowingly used through deception. It give courts the discretion to determine if a confession made by a child is reliable. We must strive to ensure that confessions obtained by the police are accurate and not the result of deception and coercion.
I am also a person who has been impacted by the criminal legal system. When I was 22-years-old, I was arrested. When I was questioned by the police, officers made promises to me that were clearly not real, like telling me I could go home after I confessed to them, or that I would be given a bond that I could afford, or that people I knew had said things about me that were not true. While I was not a juvenile, I wasn’t much older than the ages of many of the people you have/will hear from today who gave confessions as juveniles that were not true and resulted in wrongful convictions.
I have been fortunate to have been able to complete my sentence and am now in law school at the University of Connecticut. I am also the Assistant Director of the National Prison Debate League. When I become a practicing attorney, whether working with clients or in court, or preparing incarcerated people to exchange ideas in educational spaces, lying or deceiving will never be an acceptable way to interact with people. That could not be more necessary for children, who are vulnerable to deceptive tactics, especially when they are in the custody of the police – people who should otherwise be protecting them, not coercing them into making a confession.
I urge this committee to pass Senate Bill 1071 to prevent further deceptive interrogations by police on children, interrogation tactcis that have harmed children and cost our state millions of dollars. Thank you for listening to my testimony today.